After wading through the headlines this past week at DetentionSlip, something seems to be bubbling up more and more.
The issue here, is a general attitude in our society that people under the age of 18 are second class citizens. We treat them as property. Some folks in power actually believe it is ok to physically harm a child in the name of discipline. Others, think it is OK to use the bodies of children for their own sexual perversions. The common theme here, is “adults” in power operating on a value system that allows for them to use the bodies of younger folks without their consent.
American's have never been much for logic and critical thinking – for the most part we are a superstitious, religious bunch fueled on ego, emotion and anecdote. We are drifting towards a more scientific approach to life, but it is a long time coming. I know it's hard for many of us, but we have to begin looking at our lives objectively; what outcome do you want to achieve, and what is the best strategy to achieve it. That strategy better not come from a 500 year old interpretation of a 2000 year old book, your “gut”, or something that “has always been done that way”.
From: Berkeley Law – Mary Ann Mason 1994, Columbia University Press
The relationship between parents, children, and the state is arguably the most fundamental relationship in a society. The social attitudes and legal norms embedded in this triangle determine the way we raise our children and provide the basis of social continuity within a nation. This relationship usually is unexamined. Only when the family breaks down, by virtue of the death of one or more parents, divorce, or parental incompetence or abuse does the state intervene to carry out and make explicit society's value. Temporarily, and sometimes permanently, the state becomes involved with the issue of custody and control of the child. And, at times, the triangle is transformed into a complicated matrix involving fourth parties: masters (of indentured servants and child slaves), stepparents, foster parents, and grandparents. The parties, too, often seek legal recognition in custody disputes.
By Kevin Maillard – Download 39 page PDF document
Here is the abstract:
Despite the collective view in law and social practice that it is intrinsically taboo to consider human beings as chattel, the law persists in treating children as property. Applying principles of property, this Article examines paternity disputes to explain and critique the law’s view of children as property of their parents. As evidenced in these conflicts, the Article demonstrates that legal paternity exposes a rhetoric of ownership, possession, and exchange. The law presumes that a child born to a married woman is fathered by her husband, even when irrefutable proof exists that another man fathered the child. Attempts by non-marital biological fathers to assert parental rights regularly fail, as states allow only one father to “claim” the child. This approach treats the nonmarital father as a trespasser and categorically favors the fundamental due process rights of the marital father.
Americans everywhere were outraged at the Cuban diplomat's remark that Elián Gonzales is the property of the Cuban state. If only their outrage extended to their own homeland!
Photo at right – Elián González is removed at gunpoint
from his relatives' home in Miami.
For more than 100 years, Americans have lived under a system of state schooling or, as it is commonly termed, public schooling. Under compulsory-attendance laws, the state requires parents to deliver their children to a state institution to receive a state-approved education from a state-approved schoolteacher using state-approved textbooks and following a state-approved curriculum.
Several months ago, I spent a week in Cuba with the official permission of both the U.S. Treasury Department and the Cuban authorities. The purpose of my trip was to conduct an informal study of Cuba's socialist system as well as the effects of the U.S. embargo on the Cuban people.
Katy Perry says she left her strict religious upbringing behind after her evangelical minister parents left her without a childhood.
The pop singer is on the cover of the June issue of Vanity Fair magazine, where she revealed the differences between hers and her parents’ way of thinking in an interview.
“I didn’t have a childhood,” she told the magazine. She said she was not allowed to use terms like “deviled eggs” or “Dirt Devil,” to listen to secular music or to read any books but the Bible.
In March, Perry’s mother revealed that she was shopping a book about the impact of her daughter’s career on her ministry. She said she was proud of Katy but disagreed with “a lot of choices she makes.”
Between Skinner v. Oklahoma and the advent of modern substantive due process, procreation, at least in the eyes of many courts and commentators, became entrenched as a fundamental, if not absolute, right. And yet ironically, the establishment of this right, often taken as symbolic of personal liberty, has diminished autonomy for those persons inevitably caught on the other end of it – our future children. Expanding procreative autonomy has diminished public norms that might otherwise ensure that future children are born into circumstances that also expand their autonomy. Instead, the broad, modern, privacy-based version of the right to procreate leaves the matter exclusively and privately to the whims of prospective parents, allowing them to create any number of children in any manner of circumstances. This tends to institutionalize the classification of a group of persons, albeit future persons, who exist morally and legally though not yet physically, as property. It does so because it gives prospective parents exclusive and absolute power over members of the class; power to freely access them, use them, and determine their future relations, and to do so in exclusion of others’ power, including the constructive power of the members themselves. This power over future children, which the privacy-based right to procreate vests in prospective parents, is the unmistakable hallmark of one class of persons treating another as property.
This article maintains that the most common notion of the right to procreate, the one seemingly derived from constitutional precedent and today taken as largely beyond question, tends to treat future children largely as a class of property, assigned as such to prospective parents. This article also traces the historical development of the right as part of the larger tradition of treating existing children as the property of those who create them. Throughout, this article suggests that the right to procreate so conceived is in tension with an embedded constitutional principle that prohibits one class of persons from treating another as property. This tension, which may be called the “property objection,” demands that we change the way we think about the right to procreate.
Download – 33 page PDF document
From: End Hereditary Religion
Historically, children were considered the property of parents. Under the scheme of patriarchy wives and children are under the control of the family head, the husband of the family. Much of this hoary antiquated thinking is still promoted by far right conservatives and the vestiges of ancient thinking die hard.
Today, children are persons in their own right and modern progressives recognize the personhood of children. Children have the right to grow up free of debilitating dogmatic superstitious thinking. Instead parents and communities must encourage children to think critically and determine their own path through life to suit themselves.
Authoritarian parents view the autonomy of children as threats to their antiquated way of life. Anachronistic groups like the dominionist inspired and led Parentalrights.org want to seal off the family from the state to avoid heretical ideals like children’s rights or the emancipation of women creeping in. They advocate a constitutional amendment to protect what they call parental rights, but are really restraints aimed at the protection of the antiquated system of patriarchy. This is why they emphasize the taboo of non-interference in family matters (a strong meme). The goal is really to keep patriarchy going and ward off any progressive moves that would liberate wives and children.
Kids are great. They're miniature versions of us, with smaller bodies, less-developed minds, and a whole lot less emotional baggage than we grown-ups have. But we decided a long time ago that kids don't have all the fully autonomous rights that adults do until they reach a certain age.
So what are children before they are adults? Are they people? Are they the property of their parents? Are they something in between, that we don't have a clear legal category for? While the idea of children as the property of their parents stretches back to the beginning of human history, it's causing some very modern problems with children being sold into slavery.