Rights (Was Re: Violence in schools)

From: David Lubkin (lubkin@unreasonable.com)
Date: Tue Oct 03 2000 - 10:50:28 MDT

On 10/2/00 at 8:16 PM J. R. Molloy wrote:

>> If its a public school, the ban on the shirts violates the student's
>> first amendment rights. spike

>Yeah, it probably does.

It's not clear that the kids *have* First Amendment rights while they're at
school. Courts have generally found that they have some civil rights at
school, but far more curtailed than an adult would have.

>But in the fifties, I remember students at my school
>didn't ever (ever) consider rebelling on the basis of infringement of first
>amendment rights.

Kids today are more indignant. (I am reminded of the study that found that
American kids lagged behind other developed countries in all academic areas
but led the world in self-esteem.)

The trouble with asserting rights as a kid (or as a parent, on behalf of your
children) is that after you've made a stink, you have to go back to the same
school, to the same teacher. And won't they be glad to see you....

And kids want to blend in, not stick out. They worry not just about how the
teacher will retaliate but whether the other kids will tease or harass them.

When I finish that book on libertarianism for kids, my next book may be on
children's rights, also for kids. What their rights are, and how to assert
them -- in school, at the mall, against their parents, etc. It's their call
as to whether to act against an injustice; I'd like them to know what their
options are.

The tough issue for me: Kids come in all stripes and colors. Some are mature
and responsible, some are wild animals, and some are in-between. From my POV,
the rules, particularly those in school, give adults broad discretion with
little recourse and few repercussions for treating children in a way that would
be wholly unacceptable if applied to adults. On the other hand, inner-city
teachers complain that, in this oversensitive, litigious age, they feel
powerless to deal with disciplinary problems.

I think children are the one of the hardest issue for a libertarian to grapple
with. What rights should children have? Where do the rights of a parent end?
What right does the rest of society have to interfere with how I raise my child?
Should the rights be age-based, or is there a reasonable way to assess
intelligence, maturity, and judgment?

The Libertarian Party platform takes a stab at it, but some of their
conclusions seem absurd. They feel that "children always have the right to
establish their maturity by assuming administration and protection of their
own rights, ending dependency upon their parents or other guardians, and
assuming all responsibilities of adulthood." Sure.... How about three-year-
olds who don't want to take a nap?

Animal rights are also hard. Why is it a property crime to kill Koko, the
gorilla with an IQ of 70, when it's murder to kill a human with an IQ of 70?
We already have a system of fractional civil rights -- certain rights for
adult citizens vs. felons vs. children vs. non-citizens vs. retarded -- why
not extend it to non-humans?

It seems to me that the issues surrounding children and animals are worth
exploring in depth because how we deal with them illuminates how we can
incorporate new variants into our society -- transhumans, transanimals,
clones, AIs, aliens, uploads, downloads, reanimated cryonauts, etc. Without
the component of BS inherent in any discussion of the latter. Children and
animals aren't speculative developments; they're here now, and we have
thousands of years of experience with them.

-- David Lubkin.


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