Saturday, December 07, 2013

Children Have Rights

You and your soulmate are walking in the woods behind your home. She's bitten by a colorful, exotic spider. One hour later, she's woozy. Two hours later, she's almost delirious.
At the hospital, she falls into a coma. It takes doctors 24 hours to pinpoint the illness.
She was bitten by a rare african spider. The implications are awful, say the doctors. After looking at cases in Africa, they give the husband the following prognosis:
Claire will be in a coma or semi-comatose state for one year.
In year two, she'll come completely out of any comatose state, but won't remember anything of her past or anything she ever learned and will have to learn all over again. Her rational mind will begin kicking in again rudimentarily. She'll be able to perceive things and make some causal connections and begin rudimentary speaking. But she'll often attempt to harm herself by arational actions.
From the third to fifth year, she'll begin getting higher concepts and start talking fluently, but she'll have tantrums occasionally because of frustration and will still attempt to do some harmful things.
From year 6 through 10, Claire will learn how to read, do math, wrestle with and digest high concepts, and she will get back almost entirely to where she was when she was bitten, with rare occasions of still grappling with honesty, justice, integrity and pride until about the 12th year -- at which time, she should be fully back to her vital former self.
You and Claire had planned for potential catastrophic occurrences before the spider bite, but neither of you could've imagined such a state of conditions.
You grapple with your values, but you decide, yes, you will care of her during those 10 years, being her caretaker, changing her diapers at first, stopping her from harmful acts, providing tutorials when asked, lengthily explaining causal and moral matters when she's ready and willing, etc.
As I'm sure you, my reader, have figured out already, the above scenario is essentially the scenario, mutatis mutandis, of a child in her first 10 years: complete incapacitation to near full mental growth.
Claire would not and did not surrender her individual rights. She ascribed her protection and care taking over to someone she trusted. She would want her soulmate to keep her healthy, stop her from taking action against herself (even with temporary force if necessary), and provide a moral and robust environment for mental growth.
If she chose not to go to a formalized school, she would not go. Etc.
Children have the same individual rights. Their "smallness" and "babbling" and harmful value pursuits (running into street) do not make them inferior, nor do they mean a surrender of rights, and nor do they mean that they are somebody's property. They are in caretaker status. They will set their own values at an early age and pursue any knowledge related to those values. They are quite ambitious, like Claire, if left alone in value-pursuits.
Children should be seen as our friends, our dear friends -- always! Seeing them as friends with full rights puts the context of the relationship in clear focus and prevents reflexive harmful attitudes and actions against them by rational parents.
If they could talk at birth for a brief moment, they might say: "Hey. Howdy. Good to finally see some good lighting. Look, I'm going to need you to please take care of me for a good bit, keep me from doing harmful stuff, clean me up, give me some tasty, nutritious food (that umbilical was getting OLD), and, well, you know the rest. I hope to value you one day, and I know you wouldn't have gone through all this if you didn't think I'd be a high value to you. I'll be calling you mommy and daddy soon. Please be patient. I got a whole hell of a lot of things in this exciting world I'm gonna want to do. I hope you'll honor my right to pursue those things totally. Thanks a lot. See you around."
All children are "Claire."
Her husband would never think of spanking her or hitting her. He would honor her. He would honor her right of self-direction, and when she was "acting like a child," he would gently and rationally help her with explanations -- sometimes possibly for hours, until she figured it out. He would love her, and he would look forward to loving her more, and he would hope that she would love him for his gentleness, his firmness, his values, his morality, his forthrightness.
As I hinted at above, there is never a case for parental/guardian coercion in child-rearing. Coercion is the initiation of force against another human and/or their concrete values (things). It is only when the child takes action against herself (harming herself and harming the parent's value) that a parent can retaliate with mild physical restraint, if necessary, to stop the destructive action. All such instances are "retaliation," not "initiation" of force. The parent is mildly retaliating (picking up the toddler heading for broken glass on the floor, etc.) against the child's unknowing harm of a value. There is never a place for punitive measures with Claire or children. (I'll expand on punitive measures in another post.)
Claire's case (and the case of children) are a special case in coercion because of their caretaker status. Conscious, rational adults can, of course, commit destructive actions against themselves and destroy any value they have of themselves and any value they may be to others. But adults in caretaker status (and young children) temporarily proxy their hegemony over value protection. This does not undermine their rights, and they are not property. They simply have a rational-mind proxy until they get their own faculties fully formed.
It is not, ipso facto, harmful for a child to choose not to go to school. It is not harmful for the child to eschew any learning that the parent wishes, outside of morality, but morality cannot be force-fed anyway. It has to be practiced by the parent, and it will be absorbed by the child via example and explanation, when she seeks explanation. Only a truly rational parent can become the beacon for a child.
All children are "Claire."
They start with nothing but a mental capacity (rationality), and they slowly learn to run it, practice with it, use it well, be happy. Any coercion by a parent, in any regard (even manipulative exhortations to do something the parent wishes), hobbles the child's own value system (I'll expand on this in another post). And, more important, it violates their rights to their own volition, their own body, their own mind.
Children have rights.

1 comment:

ACH said...

I agree with your article. I remember when we first talked about unschooling, as a way of raising of a child, 10 years ago. A few of my concerns then were about: a child's food choices, sleeping schedule, good friend selection and education. Can you elaborate further on why, in spite of these things being obvious rational values, a child's volition should take precedence over an adult's choice for them about these areas of their life? By giving the child so much freedom how can a parent be sure their child will do the things that will actually benefit their life for the long-term and not become hedonistic in their approach to life?

- Aquinas Heard