Judge This: Should 13 Year Old Girl Be Allowed To Sail World Alone?

Dutch officials have detained a 13 year old sailor in order to evaluate her psychological fitness to make the decision to sail the world:

13-year-old Laura Dekkerwants to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, a goal her parents support. But today, Dutch authorities put her in temporary state custody while psychologists assess whether she should be allowed to go.

Laura has been placed in the dual custody of Dutch child care officials and her parents, who are divorced, for the next two months while an independent child psychologist evaluates her case, the Associated Press reports. She can continue to live with her father but would need state approval to leave on a planned two-year trip in her 26-foot boat. Both parents have consented to the trip.

Laura wants to challenge the record set by 17-year-old British teenager Mike Perham who became the youngest person to sail around the world after completing a nine-month journey yesterday. Dutch officials argue that Laura is too young to weigh the dangers of the trip and are concerned because Laura has proposed missing two years of school and tutoring herself while alone on the boat. Laura’s father, Dick Dekker, who is an experienced sailor, challenged their objections saying, “Where do you learn more, on a two-year trip or at high school?”

This is one of those cases where if you said “13 year old girl” sets sail around the world I don’t think it would have really sunk in with me as much as if one of my nieces (or nephews for that matter) had come to me telling me they planned to do this at 13, in which case I would think it emphatically insane.  But, what do you think?  Is it merely a question of competence (both to make the choice and to carry out the voyage) or is this something 13 year olds simply should not be allowed to attempt under any circumstances whatsoever?  And if it is a question of psychological competence to make such a momentous decision, is it possible to argue a 13 year old is not capable of such a judgment?

For the record, by the age of 13, I still hadn’t learned to ride a bike, let alone sail around the world.  Wait, did I say 13?  I meant 31 (damn dyslexia), I still haven’t gotten around to learning how to do that.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.