25 January 2010 by Jennifer
Here I quote something Louisa wrote on children’s self-sovereignty, the non-neutral role of the state, and an ethical point of reference for the shape of our activism. It’s originally from a list we’re both on, but I asked if I could re-post it here and she said yes.
This arose out of a discussion about how compulsory school can be used to protect children from being made to work (in the economic/ money-earning/ survival sense).
Could championing the right to non-school education for our own children indirectly expose other children to the risk of being coerced into labour?
If so, that would raise an ethical question, which one writer framed in terms of prioritising our own identies: parent vs global citizen. Louisa returns to this framing in the last paragraph.
The way I see it is that to force a child to labour is to initiate force against the child’s life and liberty. The forced labour is not the disease, merely the symptom of the disease. The disease is the coercion of human beings by human beings.
To force a child to abandon the pursuit of his own life, identity and values and force them to attend school where they are required to internalise the values and priorities of the state is also an act of violence against the life and integrity of the child. It is another symptom of the same disease.
Ironically, one of the grounds on which we are being attacked is the assertion that home education is a means by which some parents force their children to internalise the values, beliefs and priorities of the parent.
It seems to me that most of those who make this argument against home ed (Daniel Monk for example) are patently unable to accept or unwilling to admit that the state is not neutral in this respect. The state does not attack home ed in order to protect the child’s right to pursue his *own* life, beliefs, priorities and values – though it claims to – the state attacks home ed in order to neutralise the percieved competition – parents.
It seems to me that many libertarians lose their way here, because they assume the state to have a benign or neutral interest when nothing could be further from the truth! The state does not wish to protect the integrity of the child: it wishes to ensure that the child internalises the values of the state and not the parent! It has no interest in defending the liberty of the child to form his own.
So what I’m kind of trying to get at, in my convoluted way, is that if we champion self-sovereignty and individual liberty, if we champion the right of the child not have force or fraud enacted against his life, liberty or property then we will always be on the “right” side.
We don’t have to choose between unregulated home ed and exploited children. We can instead choose and argue and campaign for individual liberty and self-ownership.
Children will always be abused, enslaved, coerced or exploited by either parents or state so long as either party believes it has a right to do so. This in my view is the disease that needs to change.
When we cure this sickness, symptoms of exploitation like child labour, child abuse, schools in their current form etc will all disappear. We don’t have to prioritise our identities. We can simply enact freedom and self-sovereignty for all citizens of the world. Starting with ourselves.
Thanks to Louisa for letting me share this here.