Paul Peterson on Parents over Bureaucrats

In today’s Wall Street Journal  Paul Peterson makes a personal and compelling argument for why deference should be given to parents over the false-expertise of distant bureaucrats.

Paul’s adult son is autistic and sometimes engages in potentially life-threatening self-injurious behavior, such as banging his head and shoving his hands down his throat.  After many years and much searching, Paul and his family found an effective intervention that checks this self-injurious behavior and enables his son to live a better and safer life. The intervention involves skin electric shocks, which essentially grab his son’s attention and interrupt his self-injurious activities.

The shocks do hurt, but the pain is relatively mild and fleeting relative to the serious harm his son might do to himself otherwise.  And his son receives plenty of positive rewards for avoiding self-injury.  The shocks are a back-stop when things get out of control.

But bureaucrats at the FDA think they know better and want to prohibit the type of intervention benefiting Paul’s son.  They believe that there are drug therapies that are more effective.  Unfortunately, even if those drug therapies work on average, there is a distribution of results and Paul’s son has tried the drugs without success. No matter, declares the FDA, everyone should get what we think works best for the average person even if your circumstances differ.

You should read Paul’s entire piece.  When doing so keep in mind that this isn’t just about the FDA and people with autism.  This is about who knows best.  Should families and care-providers who possess more contextual information decide what to do or should distant bureaucrats impose on everyone.  And, of course, this is the heart of my support for choice in education.  Who should decide what is best for children — their families and the educators they select or regulators, portfolio managers, and other over-bearing bureaucrats?

2 Responses to Paul Peterson on Parents over Bureaucrats

  1. Greg Forster says:

    As with the FDA, our education fights are not about Left versus Right but about technocracy versus freedom.

  2. […] served in many ways by its various edifying impulses: to “close the achievement gap,” to “put parents in charge,” etc. But it has been haunted for decades by a growing awareness that these moral impulses do […]

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