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And the children will rule over them

By Selwyn Duke
web posted December 20, 2004

When Kymer Rouge leader Pol Pot ascended to power in Cambodia in 1975, one of the first things he did was to follow in the bloody footsteps of his precursors and attack tradition. Among other things, this communist disrupted time-tested hierarchies and sometimes placed children in authority over adults, as he placed AK-47s in their little hands. It's not surprising, of course, as one of the hallmarks of a wicked, tyrannical movement is an effort to undermine tradition. And it makes sense, since tradition is the glue that binds a society together. Dissolve that glue and a society crumbles to pieces. You can then be there to pick up the pieces and reassemble them in whatever fashion suits your fancy.

This comes to mind as I ponder a decision handed down by the Washington Supreme Court on December 10. The court said that a mother violated the state's privacy law by eavesdropping on her fourteen-year-old's conversation. In a case that concerned a purse-snatching, the court ruled that evidence gathered via the surreptitious monitoring was inadmissible because the teenager had a "right" to privacy. Yes, a right to privacy . . . while talking on her parents' phone, under her parents' roof and on her parents' nickel.

Now, lest I render myself guilty of hypocrisy, I have to reserve some judgement as to who exactly is responsible for this insanity. If the court was simply acting in accordance with the true intent of the legislators [which I have often scored justices for not doing], then the latter are the ones guilty of dislocation from reality. If the courts were acting contrary to that intent and descended into judicial activism [which is probable], then the justices are guilty of same and a violation of their oath. Regardless, this is part and parcel of a larger and quite persistent problem nowadays: the bestowing of excessive rights upon minors, contrary to the wisdom imparted to us by natural law and millennia of human experience.

Now, the judges found that Washington's strict privacy law -- which prohibits the recording or intercepting of a conversation without the consent of all parties involved -- is to be applied even in cases of parents who are monitoring minor children. This position strikes me as just a tad incongruous, however. A child cannot be bound by the terms of a contract even if he gives his "consent" because the law states that the obtaining of a minor's consent is not sufficient to bind him to the terms of a legal contract. Nor can a fourteen-year-old "consent" to have sex. Yet, here, a child's "consent" must be obtained before his parents can monitor his conversations. Why is the child's consent considered invalid in the first two examples but eminently valid in this?

The fact of the matter is that we don't afford to children the same rights that we do to adults. A child cannot drive a car, buy alcohol or cigarettes, join the military or forgo attending school. Despite this, our society continues to be guilty of cognitive dissonance [the holding of two contradictory ideas in one's mind simultaneously] in this matter, as we seem to ascribe adult status and its attendant civil rights to children in certain situations and then turn around and act as if minors are still chewing on pacifiers in others.

One area in which this phenomenon has been starkly apparent is that of freedom of speech in schools. There have been numerous court cases in recent years wherein students -- or those acting on their behalf -- have brought suit against their schools on the basis that their right to free expression was infringed. The issue might have been clothing on which a certain sentiment was emblazoned or a book report containing subject matter that teachers would not abide. And while such actions may smack of the handiwork of the left, I'm sorry to say that most of my political soulmates could be counted among those who supported many such lawsuits. Of course, it is understandable. Bristling at the fact that schools are awash in left-wing dogma and often stifle politically-incorrect dissent, they have entered the fray, suing for students' "right" to express ideas deemed too religious or "intolerant" for academic consumption. But while I share their goal, their methods are folly.

You see, while I may often agree that the offending ideas deserve a prominent place at the table, to argue that students in school have the right to express a given thought on the basis of a civil rights/freedom of speech argument is to use specious reasoning. For, children don't enjoy the benefit of freedom of speech within the context of a school. After all, the rules prohibit them from shouting out on a mere whim, cursing at teachers or filibustering in class. Nor do I think they would be allowed to wear clothing displaying overtly bigoted ideas. Yet, I never hear anyone challenge those prohibitions.

The truth is, determining what constitutes allowable speech in schools is rightly the domain of school administrators and local school boards. Now, don't misunderstand me, the determinations with regard to this made by many of the dunderheads in academia find no favor with me. However, the proper remedy is for the residents of localities to see that their will is done by voting out school boards that enforce politically-correct paradigms. But a lawsuit? No.
For the courts to usurp this local role by becoming the ultimate arbiter in these matters is what really constitutes the infringement of a right due us: the right to dictate what policies will prevail within schools funded with our taxes and occupied by our children.

Another symptom of this problem is the proliferation of anti-spanking statutes in the western world. In many municipalities, "Spare the rod and spoil the child" has been replaced by "Spare the God and let them run wild." And while this age-old, time-tested tool for discipline is usually discredited by psycho-babblers spewing bogus science, I actually heard a "child rights advocate" on Insanity of Colmes claim that the practice should be criminalized on the basis of a civil rights argument. She said [I'm paraphrasing], "We wouldn't be allowed to strike an adult on the street, so why should we be permitted to strike children?" Of course, it makes sense. That is, if you're someone whose condition of radical-egalitarianism-on-the-brain renders you incapable of drawing basic distinctions between starkly different groups.

Now, getting back to contradictions, there's yet another one inherent in this granting of gratuitous rights to minors. When children commit heinous crimes nowadays, there often will be a hue and cry to create laws that hold their parents criminally responsible. This idea was much bandied about after the Columbine massacre, for instance. "What fecklessness! These parents should have known, they should have been engaged and monitored their children's lives," is the thinking. But at the same time that we make that reasonable demand, we are robbing parents of the requisite authority to perform that parental function. Worse still, much of the authority that we take from the parents we give to their children. Consequently, a situation has arisen where we seek to increase parents' responsibility while decreasing their authority, and increase children's authority without a proportionate increase in responsibility. But the principle that governs this is inescapable: with responsibility must come authority and with authority must come responsibility. The two go hand in hand.

Not everyone, however, laments this loss of parental authority. On the contrary, there are those who welcome it because they know it lays the foundation for a government monopoly over the hearts and minds of America's children. After all, if parents lack the authority to control their children and the wherewithal to mold them into moral beings, government will then have a good excuse to step into the breach. This is why we have seen an increase in unjust intrusion into the family by social services agencies, and the calling of police to control unruly brats who, in a more sane time, would have responded to the threat of a razor strap.

Regardless of the motivation, this supreme usurpation of parental authority serves to further undermine an already battered family structure. We should be mindful of the fact that the family hierarchy has stood since time immemorial and has been one of the indispensable elements of family life in every single civilization of which I'm aware. But it's now threatened like never before because we've fallen under the influence of grand puppeteers. Masquerading as judges and bureaucrats, these individuals have utter contempt for hierarchies. Except, of course, the government hierarchy that empowers them and atop which they happen to find themselves. But why wouldn't this hierarchy suit social-engineers just fine? For, it provides a lofty perch from which they can dismantle our traditions one by one, remove our rights one by one, and put nails in our coffin, one by one.

Selwyn Duke lives in Westchester County, New York. He is a tennis professional, internet entrepreneur, and writer whose works have appeared on various sites on the Internet, including Intellectual Conservative and Mensnet. A large number of his works can be found at his site www.SelwynDuke.com.


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