Debate about the demograph of those who are having all the babies has once again reared its head in the New Zealand Herald.  Dr Jim Flynn of Otago University has warned that we need ‘brainier’ mums to have children if we are to maintain the intelligence of our population.  He is commenting on New Zealand’s census figures which found that women without tertiary qualifications who had reached their early 40s had produced 2.57 babies each, while women with a higher education were producing just 1.85 babies each.  He comments:

  “Everyone knows if we only allowed short people to reproduce there would be a tendency in terms of genes for height to diminish. Intelligence is no different from other human traits,” he told the Sunday Star-Times.

“A persistent genetic trend which lowered the genetic quality for brain physiology would have some effect eventually.”

While I’m not sure tertiary qualifications are the be all and end all of being a good mum they do normally indicate a committment to learning at school and a certain drive to achieve something in the world. It is slightly concerning if this is also a reflection on parenting skills and the skills we are passing onto our children.  We need our socially responsible and educated members of society to put some time into having and nurturing children, rather than forever building up their often hard earned careers. 

More and more educational research is clearly showing that parents need to be and are the primary educators of their children and teachers can only work in conjunction with their input.  According to Finnish child development specialist Eeva Hujala, commenting in the Nordic Early Childhood Education Research, neurological research has shown that 90% of brain growth occurs during the first five years of life, and 85% of the nerve paths develop before starting school.  Parents reading to and stimulating their children plays a big part in this development.

However, the rest of Dr Flynn’s analysis is concerning and seems to verge on eugenics.  He suggests that putting a contraceptive in the water supply for which an ‘antidote’ is required might stop undesirable people having children!:

“You could of course have a chemical in the water supply and have to take an antidote. If you had contraception made easier by progress, then every child is a wanted child.”

Why not just forcibly sterialise the people we don’t want to have children? In any case, isn’t it that we want intelligent people to also have children, rather than others to necessarily not.  A good start for our future generations more than anything else would be a committment to marriage and life long love on the part of their parents so that children have the emotional stability of a family which supports them and is built on solid moral values to fall back on. 

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...