Five Year-Olds, Picketing for their Rights

Written by Lance Larsen on November 17th, 2009

The “right to childhood”, along with every other “right”, is subject to a diverging definition problem.  We speak quite freely about “naturally emerging order” but the reality of youth is that it needs, and indeed, it craves some degree of structure and instruction.  I applaud the amazing men and women who, for their brilliance of mind and exuberance of energy, could be making much more than they do as teachers, who give their lives to the instruction of children.  And I fully believe that they do so according to the best practices of which they are aware.  Yet they still make mistakes.  And sometimes those mistakes have lasting consequences.  It’s a difficult balance to strike.

Ender’s Game is a great book and has been one of my favorites for a long time.  Yet the urgency of the scenario in Ender’s Game is without parallel in the real world.  On the far other end of the spectrum resides those who argue that a public education system robs children of their right to a childhood since they have no choice but to be in school.  That strict parents who require extraordinary discipline in the pursuit of musical or artistic excellence in their kids are stealing their children’s childhood.  A childhood is not stolen if the child, upon arrival at adulthood is benefitted and consciously grateful for the abilities bestowed by a structured learning environment during the crucial early years of impressionability.  Besides, I know plenty of people who seem to have more than made up for their “lack of childhood” during pre-pubescence with more than adequate post-adolescent delinquency.  

The Lance Larsen definition of “the right of childhood” includes not only a freedom from fear and manipulation, but also a healthy dose of structured learning about the systems or order upon which society is built.  Children have a right to be introduced to the real world, not dumped into it.


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