Do we have a right to tell people they are wrong?

Believe it or not, this question was posed to me in a public parenting forum, hosted by This is how I responded.

Yes, you bet we do. In life we all make choices that effect our communities, unless we live alone on a desert island. Incompetent parents raise children who because of the maltreatment they endured are angry and become dangerous to everybody around them. Not to mention they live stunted lives and never achieve the potential every human has a right to aspire to. Some wind up incarcerated for long periods or are even executed for capital crimes. Would it not make a lot more sense to get ahead of the problem and seek KNOWN strategies of prevention?

Others who suffered abuse seem to live quasi-normal lives, marry, and have children. Which are likely going to also wind up abused and create yet more stunted lives. This fact only recently came to light although children have been maltreated throughout history.

An official estimate of the Department of Health and Human Services, using 2007 child abuse data for the US, puts the cost for that year at around 94 billion dollars. We all pay such costs and besides an ethical obligation to improve life for all our citizens, the fact we must pay such staggering financial costs certainly gives us the right to speak out, especially against willful ignorance. It is vital that we drop the pretensions and speak frankly.

If people are so backward and simple minded that they cannot understand this basic fact, that is unfortunate for them. Trying to protect the feelings of such people, who will not listen to reason, commands far less importance that trying to prevent very real harm to thousands of children.

I will bend over backwards for anyone who lacks knowledge and is sincere in wanting to understand the facts. I realize that many people do not, unfortunately, have a grasp of the scientific method or how statistical analysis operates to reveal truth. (I only managed a C in that course and I had to have a tutor.) The average American is mystified by how a tv or radio works let alone the bell curve of statistics. But if I can manage some understanding, others can if they try.

From the HHS web site:

Studies have documented the link between abuse and neglect of children and a range of physical, emotional, psychological, and behavioral problems. In addition to the tragic consequences endured by the children who have been maltreated, society pays a high monetary cost for child maltreatment. The costs for child maltreatment include both direct costs (i.e., those associated with the immediate needs of abused and neglected children) and indirect costs (i.e., those associated with the longer term and secondary effects of child maltreatment). Since some maltreatment goes unrecognized and it is difficult to link costs to specific incidents, it is not possible to determine the actual cost of child abuse and neglect. As estimated by Prevent Child Abuse America, the total annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States may be as high as $94 billion, as shown in Exhibit 6-1

Hitting or humiliating children is maltreating them. Centuries of this practice does not validate it as legitimate.

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