Sunday, June 13, 2010

"But surely there is a reasonable middle point between helicopter parenting and searching-for-your-child-by-helicopter parenting."

(Title stolen from of a friend of a friend on Facebook, reproduced here without permission because I thought it was dazzlingly clever)

Since I imagine nearly everyone knows the facts about Abby Sunderland's rescue, may I just throw out a brief plea that her parents not be prosecuted? Not because the adult Sunderlands weren't silly; they may well have been.* But because not all forms of silliness deserve to be prosecuted criminally. And because the United States would be a better place if it weren't quite so fashionable to call for the DA's office to get involved anytime anyone does anything that is silly.

Note also the relevance of the general concepts of specific and general deterrence. I doubt the Sunderlands are likely to repeat their mistake after al the current negative public attention. Nor does there seem to be any massive epidemic of parents sending their children on dubious sailing adventures across the world. After all, such adventures lie beyond the means of all but some tiny minority of parents anyway. So I don't see much point in a criminal prosecution from a general deterrence perspective either. Well, I suppose it would make scolds who enjoy conspicuous public displays of emoting feel good about themselves. But that's precisely a temptation to which I don't want people to give in.

Nobody has yet proposed naming some sort of child protection legislation after Miss Sunderland yet. That's all to the good; I hope nobody does.

*I'm actually not clear how silly or dangerous this was. Abby Sunderland's website says that she's been sailing since infancy and that she logged in thousands of miles of practice sailing before her attempted around the world adventure. Maybe she was just as skilled a sailor as many adults who safely undertook the same journey. It's really hard for someone like me who can't remember which side of a boat is port and which is starboard to tell.

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