New Human Right: Government Programming of your Kids

So says a York University professor.

In another display of the contempt for parents among public intellectuals, Environmental Studies professor Sarah Flicker believes that government-designated sexual education is now a human right for all children:

“I think access to sexual-health education is a basic human right,” Flicker said.

Imagine. In Flicker’s world, parents who try to teach their children anything other than government-approved sex-education could end up in front of our beloved Tribunals. Among the illegal unapproved messages is the notion that abstinence is best:

“It’s clear that one-size-fits-all prevention strategies don’t work”

She takes issue with laws such as the clause in Alberta’s Bill 44, which restore parental rights over the education of their children:

Flicker said that any law that throws up walls between kids and the sexual information they need will only lead some to make uninformed, risky choices.

You’ve got that backwards, Flicker. Bill 44 only removes the monopoly that a teacher has on the religious and sexual education of the child, returning the responsibility to the parents where it belongs. While I disagree with aspects of Bill 44, specifically the power of parents to take offending teachers to the Human Rights Tribunal, it respects real human rights of freedom and not fake ones of government indoctrination. Will Bill 44 impose a “chill” against discussing controversial issues around children, as critics charge? I would hope so. Teachers have been entrusted by parents over young, impressionable minds – I would hope that educators would think twice before breaking that trust in imposing a point of view that they know is contrary to those of the parents.

But where do parents factor into the intellectual ideal of sex-education? They are always portrayed as a liability, and not an asset. They are a source of judgment, of fear, of clashing moral and religious values. It is with these portrayals that social engineers such as Prof. Flicker attempt to drive a wedge between children and their parents. Only then do they have the raw material (children) under their control to propagate their ideology.

Sex-ed, together with religion and morality, fall under the sovereignty of parents. Failure by some individuals to fulfill any of their civic or familial responsibilities is never a licence for government to step in and take control of all of it. This only worsens the problem as individuals are motivated to further abrogate all their responsibilities to the state. We see this with discrimination. We see this with free speech. And now we see it with the moral education of our children.

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6 Responses to New Human Right: Government Programming of your Kids

  1. xanthippa says:

    There is a very real, but very ‘difficult’ line we must acknowledge in this debate:

    Where does the parent’s right to raise their child according to their religion end, and the child’s right to freedom of religion – even from one’s parents’ religion – begin?

    Without first tackling this difficult topic, without balancing the rights of the parents against the rights of the child, we cannot have a reasonable debate about where ‘school’ and ‘state’ fit in.

    Until that ‘elephant in the room’ is acknowledged and resolved, this debate can never be constructive. Because, as much as we hate any state intervention, it is the that state has the responsibility to the child to protect it from its parents’ religious indoctrination in order to protect this child’s freedom of thought and religion.

    I do not pretend to know where this line lies.

    But, I do think that, for example, in the case of Omar Khadr, the state failed to protect the child from its parent’s destructive religious brainwashing: the state ought to have been there, to help him resist this indoctrination by teaching him to think for himself and to recognize extremism for what it is, and give him the tools to defend himself from it. But, the state failed him while he was still a child…

    Think about where that balance lies – and then, please, consider the means through which the state could live up to its responsibility to the child!

    Far be it for me to suggest we need more state interference: you know me better than that! I am not suggesting that.

    All I am doing is asking the question: WHERE do the rights of the parents to raise their child in their religious beliefs end and the child’s right to freedom of religion begin – and HOW ought we, as a society (or, the ‘state’, as our proxy), best protect the rights of both the parents and the child!

    • I think you raise a very good point, Xan. Here are my thoughts:

      I think that you have raised a very interesting issue: children’s rights.

      First and foremost, I am what I guess you could call a ‘natural rights’ theorist. I believe that we are born with essential, intrinsic rights. Or rather, freedoms – I tend to dislike the term ‘rights’, as it imnplies that somebody is granting us something.

      And so we’re born with these certain freedoms, which is where the childrens’ rights and the issue that you raised come in.

      Personally, my answer lies in that I think that all ‘rights’ or freedoms are only one part of the equation. I think that with freedom, comes responsibility. For example, if I wish to be free of government involvement in, say, roads, well that’s all well and good. But if I want there to be a road for me to drive upon without that government involvement, the responsibility for that road then falls on me. I don’t know if I’m making my case terribly well, but can you see what I’m saying? With each freedom comes an according responsibility: freedom of speech comes with the responsibility of bearing the consequences of our words. Freedom to bear arms comes with the responsibility of handling those arms safely, etc.

      And so to go back to the childrens’ rights, I think that children do have inherent freedoms, or rights, but that since their parents take care of most of the childrens’ responsibilities, such as food, shelter, all that jazz, the value of the childrens’ freedoms is reduced. This is important, because this means that the parents, who have both the freedom AND the responsibility, therefore carry more weight. And this explains why children should defer to their parents in matters of education and suchlike until the children are handling certain of their responsibilities on their own.

      I dunno – does that make sense?

  2. Xanthippa:

    Certainly a worthy topic of discussion, and one that I often come across when dealing with parental rights.

    Personally, I cannot ever give the state the role of deciding which systems of thought are permissible to be taught to children and which aren’t. While the state does have a role in preventing both physical and emotional abuse, all too often these categories are expanded much too far. E.g. some would say it is abuse if I force my eight-year old to attend church services, or to withhold permission to “explore” substances and sex…

    To me, the only line that should exist is any speech we outlaw in the criminal code (exactly what should be in there is another debate, but we’ll save that for later). So, for parents to advocate direct violence against individuals or groups as part of their belief system should be a crime.

    Omar Khadr is a good example. His parents have every right to instill in him their twisted brand of Islam. But when Daddy Khadr takes his son to Afghanistan and teaches him to build bombs, that’s obviously a crime and child abuse. The case of the children apprehended from white-supremacists in Winnipeg is another case study. Though I find their beliefs repulsive, they should retain the right to pass these beliefs to their children as long as they do not directly advocate violence against persons or groups (which is in debate in this case).

    Using the language of “a state failed to protect…” is misleading. Rather, it is the parent that failed in his/her responsibility. It is dangerous to give the state carte blanche to curtail our freedoms in the name of preventing crime, not to speak of prosecuting individuals for pre-crime. The state should have no role in “protecting” a child from ideas, concepts, and belief systems. The only role of the state in this regard, beyond what I’ve stated above, is to ensure that parental rights are not forcibly abrogated by a third party (e.g. an educator teaching concepts without the informed consent of the parent).

    Wards of the state, however, are subject to whatever ideologies the state wants to indoctrinate them into. But therein lies yet another discussion in which we have neither time nor space to engage.

  3. xanthippa says:

    Thank you, both, for very thought-provoking replies.

    I really like the thing SF said: “To me, the only line that should exist is any speech we outlaw in the criminal code (exactly what should be in there is another debate, but we’ll save that for later). So, for parents to advocate direct violence against individuals or groups as part of their belief system should be a crime.”

    I think this is an excellent guideline.

    Now, how do we do it in practice?

    Another point….

    I am not sure to which point I support the parents’ ‘right’ to teach a child their ‘religious values’. It is something I have debated with my religious friends, for many years, for many hours.

    For example: Cathotlics believe that ‘baptism’ is an ‘irremovable mark’. That means that when they have their child baptized, NOTHING that child does later on in life can remove that mark which labels ‘their soul’ as a ‘Catholic’. No matter what that child chooses as their religion later on in life – they can NEVER remove the ‘spiritual mark’ which baptism has left on them.

    Or, let’s look at the Jewish practice of male circumcision! We are taught that this was a covenant between God and a real, flesh-and-blood-human: if YOU CHOOSE to circumcise yourself, you will have proven to me that you are one of MY people! The dude accomplished his own circumcision, at about 80 years of age, using his own teeth….

    But, now, Jewish boys are circumcised on 10th or 14th (close to there) day of their life. This marks them as ‘fulfilling’ the ‘covenant with God’.

    So, what if a Jewish boy does not want to fulfill that covenant? What if he becomes a Sikh, or a Hindu? He cannot ‘un-circumcize’ himself!

    The corollary to this, of course, is that a boy who is ALREADY circumcised (prior to his age of consent – or even highly structured awareness of the procedure when it was done to him – has NOT REALLY entered into this ‘covenant with God’, because he never had the chance to make the choice to BECOME circumcised. Therefore, by circumcising him at an early age, his parents are actively PREVENTING him from CHOOSING to enter into a covenant with God – and thus become a proper Jew!

    And – since we have sexual equality – if we permit circumcision of male children or the grounds of religion, how can we forbid female child circumcision? It may be physically different, but it is spiritually equivalent! And, it is something I do not think we ought to permit…

    But, there is more…much more!

    What about children who are born to parents living inside ‘religious communes’ or ‘religious communities’? Where do ‘religious values’ end and ’emotional abuse’ begin?

    Because, daily repeated, seriously delivered threats of, say, ‘eternal damnation and torture’ and telling kids that ‘they are watched by angels 100% of the time’ – to record their ‘sins’ of disobedience, like chronic insomniacs not falling asleep when they are ‘supposed to’ – that is definitely something which leaves life-long emotional and spiritual scars!

    What about children whose parents truly and honestly believe that prayer is a stronger ‘medicine’ than antibiotics, and whose children die because of that ‘belief’? Does the right of the child to survive trump the right of the parent to indoctrinate the child with religious dogma?

    And, let’s face it: ‘religious communes’ and ‘homogeneously religious communities’ are pretty much the same. What I am specifically referring to are the ‘David Koresh’ type ‘religious communities’, the
    ‘Hare Krishna communes’ (as described in the book ‘Monkey on a Stick’) or the Mormon fundamentalist communes/communities where girls are considered women – and marriage worthy – at ridiculously young ages, and where ‘community leaders’ have 50+ ‘wives’ with 100+ children…. Also, ‘devout Muslim/Christian/Hindu/Budhist/Sikh(+++) communities’ fall into this category, even if they exist as ‘unmarked’ pockets within the greater community. The social pressure to ‘conform’ and not ‘shame’ the parent interferes with a young person’s freedom of religion!

    Where do the rights of the parents in THESE situations end, and the rights of the children begin? Are parents permitted to brainwash their kids at a young age to the point where they will not be capable of accepting or even learning about any other ‘world view’, even if no immediate violence is threatened/taught? What if the indoctrination is so severe, even demonstrated, proven science is ‘offensive’ to these kids, or their minds are so warped by the time they are taught basic science in school that they cannot learn/accept ‘demonstrated/proven reality’?

    What about the rights of ‘teens’?

    DO we need to create a special category for ‘teens’ – who are still somewhat dependent on their parents for a whole slew of ‘stuff’ – but who are no longer ‘children’ and who are especially vulnerable to brainwashing and ‘religious belief-based abuse’? Was Aqsa Parvez’s father within his rights when he demanded that his daughter wear a hijab?

    Again: I DO NOT KNOW where the balance lies.

    I just suspect that most of us also ‘don’t know’ – and that many children/teens are ‘falling through the cracks’!

    And, as far as I can tell, we, as a society, are doing all we can to avoid THIS debate!

  4. Xanthippa:

    re: circumcision

    Ancient texts show that circumcision on the “eighth day” is a bona fide religious observance. Since circumcision has not been shown to have serious deleterious effects, I say let freedom of religion reign. IMHO, female circumcision would cross the line, though.

    Your thoughts on circumcision and baptism wrt consciousness occupy more of a theological than civil-rights realm; you also focus too much on the individual, while the practices are also intended for the parents and religious community. Basically, God/Yhwh calls us to set our children “apart” from the world, and circ/bapt is a physical symbol of that.

    The pressure to conform is a natural part of every child’s life. The public school system intentionally puts pressure on children to conform: take its anti-racist and anti-sexist programs, for example. So the problem is not conformity but rather the content of that conformity. To judge the content is, unfortunately, a state infringement on religious liberty. Likewise, it is dangerous to accept in law that certain beliefs lead to “life-long emotional or spiritual scarring”. You never know where that rabbit-hole will lead you – for example, I heard the other day that someone wants to ban any belief in the afterlife after a clinically insane domestic murderer testified he wanted to send his kids to heaven.

    Is brainwashing okay? In a word, yes. Assuming we all grew up with some degree of human contact, we are all therefore subject to continual brainwashing for our entire childhood. To make certain “brainwashing” a crime, once again, we would begin to distinguish in law between good brainwashing (don’t run into traffic) and bad brainwashing (God will smite you if you have premarital sex).

    Aqsa’s father has every right to “demand” that she wear a hijab. How he goes about making her obey is the issue, and we already have laws about these things. It wasn’t the demand that killed her, nor her refusal, but rather the strangulation.

    Finally, it’s the well-intentioned but misplaced notion that we are in a position to “save those children who are falling through the cracks” that is the source of untold damage to families. What’s it to you if a child grows up distrusting science? Is that better or worse than ripping a family and community apart, destroying every loving relationship that the child has, and branding otherwise law-abiding citizens as criminals?

    Thanks for engaging in this debate – it’s one I’ve wanted to discuss for a loooong time.

  5. […] New Human Right: Government Programming of your Kids « The Lynch Mob […]

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