Take one for the team

You can’t legislate good parenting. The foremost reason being that there is no one-size-fits-all approach and any attempt to define one would insult and undermine the rich diversity of parent-child relationships. Also impossible: enforcement. How would one make love compulsory, for example, or lessons on right and wrong? Children desperately need these things, but the law cannot provide them; only parents and other primary caregivers can. You can’t police parenting until it veers into the truly criminal in cases of abuse and neglect.

The government should weigh in on family business as little as possible. So should the rest of the world, for that matter. There’s way too much parent shaming going on in today’s world of quick judgment and social media firestorms. A single parental misstep, amplified on this digital stage, can cause a torrent of criticism. Everything is controversial — from discipline to formula feeding. Parents, overwhelmingly, are just trying to do the best they can. They deserve applause, support and compassion, not shame.

One of the hot-button parenting controversies of the moment involves childhood vaccinations. Once nearly universally hailed as a medical miracle, a small (but statistically significant) subset of the population now perceives a cloud of doubt hovering around these routine shots. While rumored links to autism have been thoroughly debunked by the scientific community, concerns remain and the number of unvaccinated children is alarming. In the 2017-18 school year, 5 percent of Maine children were opted out of vaccinations for non-medical reasons. Thirty-one public elementary schools reported 15 percent or higher rates of unvaccinated kindergartners, putting those schools and their communities at higher risk for the return of preventable diseases such as measles, chickenpox and whooping cough.

A bill under consideration in the state Legislature, LD 798, would eliminate immunization waivers on religious or philosophical grounds for schoolchildren. Last week, hundreds testified in Augusta for and against the bill.

We consider this a matter of public health, not parental rights.

The condescending treatment of so-called “anti-vaxxers” does little to win hearts and minds, only making people dig in their heels and become defensive. The question should not be whether a parent’s beliefs are right or wrong, but what is best for the public good? Vaccines protect us. Children should not be able to bring a preventable, communicable disease to school any more than they should be able to bring a weapon.

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