What Rights Do Children Have? Part IV of IV
As I expected, a fair number of people responded to the first three parts of this four-part series: What Rights Do Children Have? So far I have argued that children are individuals, have a right to health & safety, and a right to education . This is by no means an exhaustive ‘bill of rights’ for children but more of a starting point to get the discussion of children’s rights rolling. Icarus had an excellent comment to the first part of the series that I think is worth repeating here:
I think a proper term for a parent would be a steward or gaurdian. They don't own the child, as the idea of owning another person, even if they do have limitations on their reasoning capacity, is perposterous…Once the stewards actions are no longer beneficial to the upbringing of the child but instead are detrimental then they have violated their responisbility…I think Icarus has it pretty well nailed down and I definitely agree that this topic is underdeveloped. This four-part series is my attempt to develop this topic a little further. I don’t by any means claim that I have the answers (though I think I have a few good suggestions) but merely raise the question: what rights do children have?
Interesting topic, the realm of children and what rights they have is underdeveloped.
Some of you might be curious as to why I have decided to spend so much time writing on this subject in the first place. The answer has a lot to do with many of the injustices I have seen reported in the news: parents who refuse to give their children critical medical care, child neglect, and parents purposely denying their children access to an education.
The worst case of children being denied any rights whatsoever In the United States I have found to be the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah. My wife wrote a research report about these communities which she posted here on March 31st. Some of the atrocities she reported sound like something one might expect in the Arab world. Here is some of what she found:
In an article published by the Associated Press in 2001, a 15-year-old girl had tried to flee her community in April of 2001. She had informed the authorities that her parents were going to force her into a polygamous marriage to a man already married several times over...The young girl begged the sheriff’s department to help her; instead they returned her to the compound. In a statement to the media, the sheriff explained that her parents had the right to decide how their daughter will live since she is a minor.
Many of the women are considered single mothers since a majority of the marriages are “celestial”. With this, the women can beat the system and apply for WIC, Medicaid, and food stamps in order to survive. Very few families can afford health insurance. There is no screening for genetic defects. The children in these communities are in very poor health. Herpes is a common disease among these young kids.
Perhaps the taxpayers’ rights are being violated too, you think?
[…]Seems to me that the rights of these children have been violated, yet authorities are reluctant to do anything about it or have no legal grounds to remove the children from the polygamist communities. The children who do escape have a difficult time adjusting to society.
Often times a young girl will be forced to marry her own relatives. In doing so, they have dozens of inbred children. Many [babies] die shortly after birth, or they miscarry.
These women are uneducated and live a life of isolation with very little knowledge of the outside world. Because of this, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to having the right skills to find a job.
Polygamists are not the only ones who violate children’s rights. I recently watched a report on 20/20 where a girl in an Amish community was repeatedly raped by her own brother. The boy’s punishment? Being banned from church for a few Sundays and picking up a few extra chores; a punishment equivalent to being caught drinking alcohol. When the girl tried to bring her case before the local authorities outside the community, the judge decided to allow the Amish community to handle the matter internally. This is nothing more than another example of a religious group getting special treatment.
Where Do We Draw the Line? (Responding to Reader Comments)
Note: Spelling and punctuation is published as originally written. Some comments have been truncated […].
Mindwyrm wrote the following in response to my first post of the series:
One major problem with your assertion that a child is an individual is the fact that the child is not capable of living independently yet. I would say that if you require the intervention of another, merely to continue your existence, then you have lost a major portion of your individuality. When you factor in the idea that a child has yet to learn many of the behaviors or develop the personality that will allow them to be an individual then it gets even harder to lable children as true individuals. I'm not saying that parents can do anything they want to their children, but the parents are the ones with the responsibility to the child, not society at large.
I think the fact that a child cannot live independently is precisley the problem we are dealing with. I absolutley agree that a child does not have the same individual rights as an adult should. I’m not suggesting that society should be responsible for children (as Hillary Clinton would have us believe, “it takes a village”). What I am suggesting is that if parents are irresponsible and somehow violate a child’s rights, society should do something to protect the child from his or her parents or punish the parents in some reasonable way. Maybe this is a distinction without a difference but I don’t think so.
In part II, several people objected to my suggestion that children have a right to health & safety.
Health and safety are not rights for any individual, be it a child or an adult. Does the parent have an obligation upon them to protect the child? To a certain extent, yes. But it would be inane to say a child's right to safety had been violated cuz they skinned their knee learning to ride a bike. And getting the state involved is a bad idea when it comes to children in almost any situation…
As for health, no one has the right to health. You don't. I don't. The children don't either. Lets face it, is sounds really silly to say your rights have been trampled on by a cold virus, now doesn't it? Do the parents have an obligation to care for their child? Yes they do, but how they do so is up to them. The parents are responsible for that child until it's age of consent so how they execute their responsibility is their choice. The parent who abuses their child is is not living up to that responsiblity. A parent who refuses to take a child to the doctor due to religious reasons is doing so, but in a way you or I wouldn't agree with. The way they see it, modern medicine endagers the child's soul and that has a far higher importance than the body. do I agree with that? Absolutely not, but it is the parents call to make, not yours or mine and most definitely not the states.
Rymes with Right had this to say:
You realize, of course, that your position here effectively denies the right of a parent to raise a child within his/her relitious faith, and furthermore subjects the practice of religion by both parent and child to the regulation of the state. Based upon your arguments, i also suspect you would insist on the state being permitted to override the religious scruples of the minor child, even if said child had reached the age of reason. What's more, your argument makes the state the arbiter of "appropriate" medical care -- sort of like the case we had here in Texas, where stating a desire for a second opinion was grounds for child-snatching by CPS.
You have an incredible trust in the goodness and benevolence of government, and a clear desire to allow it to intervene in the lives of anyone with whom you disagree. Not only do i think someone should take away your Libertarian card, I think there needs to be an investigation (perhaps by the government which you want regulating s much of live?) as to how said Libertarian card was issued in the first place.
Adults might not have a right to healthcare but children absolutley do. Adults should be responsible for their own health. On the other hand, it would be unreasonable for anyone to ask a seven year-old to be responsible for his or her own healthcare. How would a seven year-old pay a doctor bill? Perhaps a paper route or sell lemonade in the front yard? If the child’s parents are not responsible, someone else nessisarily has to step in and help. I’m not talking about children skinning their kness or catching a cold; I am talking about that ‘certain extent’ that parents must make health care accessable to their children.
This notion that parents can withhold critical care to their children due to religious beliefs is absurd. What if a nonreligious person decided to withhold critical treatment such as an organ transplant or blood transfusion? Is that person entitled to excersise that same right? What if the parents are just cold hearted bastards who simply do not want to save the child’s life for whatever reason? The law cannot play favorites. Any parent who would deny the child such a life-saving surgery should be judged by a jury of his or her peers.
This has nothing to do with my trust or distrust in government but has everything to do with the fact that all too often, the child in question has no voice in the matter. Let’s suppose for a moment a child in this situation has reached the ‘age of reason’ (between 14 and 17) and wants the surgery or blood transfusion. Whose rights should prevail, the child’s or the parent’s? In any situation like this, I would have to say the child’s.
As to my Libertarian credentials? Do your own ‘investigation’ and read some of my past articles. Maybe I would be more accuratley described as an independent with mostly Libertarian leanings (though I am registered Libertarian on my voter ID card). The Libertarian Party nor any other party tells me what to believe, I have my own mind and I call it like I see it.
A.L.L. agreed with my position writing:
This isn't about skinned knees and colds. When a parent puts their religious beliefs ABOVE the safety and well being of their child, they are endangering their childs health. If the parent doesn't want to seek treatment for themselves, so be it, but don't make a child suffer. If that child were to die due to their negligence, why should they get to hide behind their religion, while some parent who just negligent gets sent to jail? 'Because its against my religion' is a an excuse, and should not be tolerated. Children do not have the voice to say, 'Hey, I would like to be treated with western medicine so I can have a chance to live instead of being wrapped in a blanket, pretend to be born again, and possibly suffocate'! Why should parents get to make that kind of decision for the child? Let me ask you this... If a child whose parents don't believe in medical science to cure, end up with a child who has cancer, you
don't think the state should step in to give that child a fighting chance? Because you know without proper treatment, that child would die. And in turn if that were to happen, those parents should be prosecuted and put in jail.
In part III, I received the most response. Most disagreed with my reasoning behind a child having a right to education. I’ll begin with part of Eric’s response:
Stephen, I would counter argue that the only rights that children have are the same as every other human, the inherent rights of life, liberty and property. And those are bounded by their ability to responsibly function within society.
Neither adults nor children have a "right" to healthcare, or education, for example. Those are privileges. One of the biggest problems in our society today is that we have decided that privileges should become legal entitlements and then extended that to make them mandated entitlements.
Let me respond here by using the life, liberty, and property framework. As to a child’s right to life, isn’t that what I am arguing when a child’s life hangs in the balance when a parent chooses to deny critical care to a child? I could also argue that a child’s right to health and safety falls directly under the child’s right to life. If I were to find an infant abandoned along the side of the road, does that child not have a right the health and safety? The state would likely take custody and would provide care using tax dollars. We cannot very well expect the infant child to care for him or herself can we? Now, we could hope that a reputable private organization would step in and care for the child until a good home was found for the child. Besides, don’t we the taxpayers pay for the wellbeing of prisoners? Shouldn’t a child be provided that same ‘privilege?’
Liberty. Liberty (Rights) is the very question I am posing. As we can see, the liberties of a child are very different from an adult. Whatever rights a child has can be at odds with the parent’s.
Property. I’m going to need some help with this one. I don’t understand how a child can actually possess, maintain, or transfer property. Maybe in some limited cases, but it seems like a parent would have some sort of ‘eminent domain’ over the children.
Rhymes With Right apparently believes that I ‘rhyme with wrong’ writing:
And so the obvious answer, to you, is the implementation of a state bureaucracy which will determine what each child shall know. The common mass of humanity shall be required to pay for said system of schools, but shall be denied a substantive voice in them lest they impose an agenda (other than yours) on the system of education. And at the top shall be a philosopher-king --let's call him the Education Czar -- who agrees with you in every respect, and who will therefore be unswayed by such irrelevant individuals as parents or taxpayers.
There is a name for such a statist system -- and it isn't Libertarianism or Objectivism. I'll let you decide whether it is Fascism or Communism.
Rhyme, you don’t think this bureaucracy doesn’t already exist? What I am advocating is teaching a child how to think not what to think; how to reason, how to look for logical fallacies, how to determine fact from opinion. Call that an agenda if you like but if a child knows how to think critically, the bureaucracy could push whatever agenda they would like but the child would at least have a better chance of determining if they are being taught a bunch of b.s. or not. This exercise we are engaged in now would be a good example of critical thinking. My goal here is not necessarily to convince you to agree with me about what rights a child should have, but to make my readers think critically about this issue. I don’t know the answer, but I think I’m in the ballpark. What rights do YOU think children should have? Whatever rights the parents allow? Are children’s rights merely an accident of birth in your opinion?
As it is the parents responsibility to see to the gorwth and well-being of the child until thye reach the age of adulthood, you could make the case that part of that responsibility is the responsibility to educate the child. This wouldn't necessitate public schools, only that a parent had to educate the child, whether they paid for a private school or home schooled them. Failure to properly educate the child would constitute child-neglect.
But of course if this is the case we run into some very familiar problems. One, it is still the government that must create the standards of what a "proper" education is, basically giving the government the power to decide what must and must not be taught. Second, if someone defaults on educating their child, it would still ultimately be up to the state to provide that educatoin for that child, whether they do it themselves or just give the child a check. In fact, i could see many parents purposfully defaulting in order to have the government pay for their kid's education.
Life, Liberty, Property, you start adding fake rights to the list and it just messes up the whole system.
By no means am I saying a child has to be educated in a public school. If I could afford it, I would put my children in private school (maybe another reason to have my Libertarian card taken away…the way I see it I’m paying for it anyway). I agree that determining what would be a ‘proper’ education is certainly a problem. As for me and my family, I see school as only part of my children’s education. I have a duty to make sure their education is complete.
Fake rights? See my response to Eric’s post.
Maybe the easy thing to do would be to have the god fearing parents sign a permission slip to let their High School children be taught about...S E X.
Many of these parents aren't teaching their kids about it, so it is left in the hands of the schools. I was taught in High School about diseases, all the ways you can get them, parts of the body, how they function, how and male and female function together...yes, we talked about sex, and oh no, masturbation. We were even shown how to properly roll a condom onto a cucumber. Girls and boys were shown how big
a condom could be blown up so that a girl knows better when the guy says he can't fit into one. Girls were taught not to be ashamed to carry condoms themselves, not to rely on the guy to have it. We learned about all types of birth control, pregnancy, rape, molestation, abuse, the list goes on and on.I didn't end up a teen age mother because of what I learned. These things being taught are facts, and a part of human nature, I don't understand why so many parents are against it. My parents weren't the type to talk about these things with me, kids need another outlet to get the facts, because friends are not a good source.I'm glad that my school was smart enough to teach us all sides, I wasn't taught a bunch of fluff about abstinence only and that kissing can make you pregnant. I very much agree with your article, teach both, don't rely on just one method or the other. The same could be said when it comes to teaching students about creationism and evolution. But that's another whole can of worms...
What if A.L.L. did not receive this information? What you don’t know can hurt you. In the case of STDs what you don’t know can kill you. This all goes back to the right of health and safety.
I argue that children (and parents) have the right *to seek* an education, much as they have the right to seek health care and myriad other goods and services in the economy. To that end, I argue that students trapped in ineffective, and monopolistic, public schools are having that right violated.
Also, a caution about using the term "critical thinking": that term has devolved into edu-babble that means anything any educrat wants it to mean. Were I you, I'd argue for a strong, and early, education in logic and rhetoric in schools.
Educators are violating the child’s right to a quality education. How many children finish high school believing our country is a democracy rather than a constitutional representative republic? Many people think this is a distinction without a difference but there are important differences between the two. This is but one example.
The critical thinking I speak of is based in Greek roots; the foundation of Western Civilization. The Greek philosophers are responsible for much of the ‘American’ concepts we speak of today. Representative government, trial by jury, politics and logical argumentation were all Greek inventions. (No I’m not Greek if anyone is curious).
Related Posts By Others:
Libertarianism: The Problem of Children by Brad Warbainy
Today's Links and Minifeatures 2005 07 29 by Searchlight Crusade
What Is The Proper Role of Government? by Eric Cowperthwaite