“Dirty Hand” Parenting
In Michael Walzer’s essay Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands, the author devotes much of the paper to justifying the practice of “dirty hands”. Although Walzer’s essay discusses political figures in regard to “dirty hands”, it is interesting to think about Walzer’s claims on a different level. What if we applied the practices and repercussions of “dirty hands” to other people in authoritative positions, such as parents? Is it acceptable for parents to go to extreme lengths for the greater good of their children?
If we were to apply all of Walzer’s ideas concerning “dirty hands” to the actions of parents we could safely conclude that “dirty hand” parenting is inevitable. Walzer explains that, “a central feature of political life, one that arises not merely as an occasional crisis in the career of this or that unlucky politician but systematically and frequently”. In this quote, Walzer asserts that it is inevitable that one day a politician will find himself or herself in a situation where they will need to act immorally in order to advance their agenda. When pertaining to parenting this can also be seen as valid. Whether it involves forcing their children to enroll in specific after-school activities to boost their appeal for college admissions or applying for genetically engineered embryos, parents are willing to make potentially immoral decisions to advance their agenda: getting their child “ahead” in life.
On a more extreme level of acting with questionable morality, some parents in our twenty-first century society are willing to do anything in order to give their children the best chance of being successful later in life. One such moral quandary involves parents who are desperate to have, create, and promote a perfect child, as is shown in Dorothy Nelkin’s article, Anything For an Edge: Breeding a race of champions with germline. In Nelkin’s article, she explores a new technology that is grabbing the attention of ruthless, “overachieving” parents all over the world called “germline” engineering. This practice involves, “ the insertion of genetic material into the pre-implantation embryo at a point when the cells are still developing and dividing”. She goes on to explain that, “The idea is to “fix” children with debilitating genetic defects, but the technique would also allow the enhancement of desirable traits”. Personally, this sounds quite immoral to me. When comparing this practice to Walzer’s description of “dirty hands”, it definitely coincides with the actions of those who, “ignore the demands of morality and make decisions based on the demands of expediency and absolutists”. These parents are willing to go to the furthest extent in order to make sure that they as parents are proud and have the “perfect” child. But is this practice moral? Is it morally sound for parents to be genetically engineering nature? This debate can go on forever but, nevertheless, many parents are ready and willing to submit to this process.
“Human Genetics Alert – Human Genetic Engineering Resources.” Human Genetics Alert – Technologies Which May Contribute to Human Genetic Engineering and Eugenics. Web. 08 Feb. 2011. <http://www.hgalert.org/topics/hge/>.
Nelkin, Dorothy. “Anything for an Edge.” Galton Institute. Web. 08 Feb. 2011. <http://www.galtoninstitute.org.uk/Newsletters/GINL0112/Anything_For_An_Edge.htm>.