'The interests of the child' seen from the child's perspective: the case of the Netherlands

Ethics and Education 6 (2):109-123 (2011)
Abstract
The Dutch government has decided to intervene in parents? role in bringing up their children by imposing compulsory parenting support. As such an intervention has to be legitimatised as being ?in the interests of the child?, it is important to take a closer look at this concept. First it is shown that it is not evident that the government has the right to intervene in this way. Within the ?child?parents?government? triangle three protective shells of self-determination can be distinguished. One of these three shells protects the freedom of childrearing of the parents. Second, ?the interests of the child? are seen from a pedagogical perspective. This concept is explored within the framework of the so-called ?pedagogical relationship?, a core concept in the continental tradition of educational theory. It is shown that the pedagogical relationship is indeed completely ruled by the interests of the child. Third, the question is raised why the Dutch government is so eager to intervene in the parents? role given the fact that the UNICEF overview of child well-being shows that the Netherlands leads the world ranking and scores in the top 10 of all measured dimensions. These philosophical and empirical arguments are apparently not considered to be convincing. Hopefully, the decision of the Dutch government will be reconsidered seriously if the results of the interventions prove unsatisfactory in the coming years.
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