Sunday, February 6, 2011

What Gives "You" the Right? Let the Children Decide

This is my reply to a Facebook thread about public education. For the most part the thread was written by males with one lone female trying to get her point across, i.e., that there are communal issues to be taken into consideration, that public education and private education have the same issues, (there are good ones and there a bad ones), that illiteracy is a bad thing, that there are people who could never send their children to school if everything was private, etc.

Tim: "Not to mention that I might have the option to choose the type of education I wanted my child to have. Perhaps I want him to have a "classical" education, or perhaps I want him to learn a trade, a career path, or develop some particular skill that he discovers along the way. Who knows? Why should we trust the state to decide what our children learn?"

And why should we trust you to know what is right for your child? Why do you think that you have the right to decide what type of education your child should have? Simply because you and your partner (assuming female for the purposes of the argument) donated genetic material to make this human being. That's all it takes???

This really is a question of does a child have rights? Is a child an equal human being with inalienable rights? If yes, then just what are those rights?

Everyone on this thread needs to go and read Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society and then A.S. Neill, Summerhill and then come back to the thread.

Libertarians should believe that children have inalienable rights (or are potential self-owners) - read the blog on "The Ethics of Adoption in Haiti: A Libertarian Approach" or read the master, himself, Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (you can buy a copy on

In The Ethics of Liberty, Rothbard argues that children are potential self-owners, and that "The child has his full rights of self-ownership when he demonstrates that he has them in nature — in short, when he leaves or "runs away" from home."[p. 102]

Remember, children are the one group in many western societies whom one can assault - people can hit their children with impunity. Hit a stranger in a bar, you will be charged with assault and you could go to jail.
Needless to say, nothing is simple. Raising children is difficult at times. It is even more difficult when your belief systems differ from the societal norm. But children have the right to be exposed to all ideas. All socialization is "brainwashing". In our society, most people use the term brainwashing for child-rearing methods that differ from their own. (See my earlier blog for a sort of rant on this, It's the Socialization, Stupid). If you are a libertarian, then your child's desire to become anything s/he wants to be must be respected - that is the true nature of freedom.
I find that that is seldom the case - even in supposed die-hard "my freedomers" - it seems that often "my freedom" doesn't extend to someone else's freedom to choose to live as if other people have something to say that matters.
I did a Libertarian quiz a little while ago - 100% libertarian on social/intellectual rights issues, only 40% libertarian on economic issues. I believe in funding the public school system. It isn't perfect. It wasn't for me; it wasn't for my children. However, the idea of all these ideological private schools running around and splitting one community from another is a horror that I don't like to think about.
The public school system tries to give a broad non-ideological education. It is where all sorts of different groups of people with different beliefs, cultures, priorities meet and have to try to get along. It doesn't always succeed and when I teach sociology, I am as hard on the public system for its "hidden curriculum" as anybody - teaching everyone to work for "the man". However, the public system is still better than the alternative whose goal is to divide rather than unify the society in which it exists.

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