The following is a somewhat edited for content bit of discourse I had with a fellow poster on one of the political boards I am active on who was criticizing youth liberation. I decided to copy the debate to my site because some of the arguments and refutations I made in favor of youth liberation are of extreme importance. His arguments (including the one that started this part of the debate) will be presented in bold face, whereas my responses will be in standard text.
We all have our own schemas which skew our perceptions of reality. You have a strong social equality schema that leads you to see the world as a series of civil rights battles, but I think it has somewhat blinded you to the very real concerns of society when it comes to children, such that you see what is largely a protective instinct (with strong genetic components pushing parents in that direction) as a absolute oppression of children. I don't think this is at all helpful to the situation. There is nothing we're going to say or do that will ever convince parents to relinquish control of their children. I'm sorry, but it just isn't going to happen. It is in their genes, and the idea that if we can just educate society they will understand this . . . I just don't see it ever happening. No, if we're to accomplish anything we must work with parents, not against them.
Okay, this whole paragraph of yours is filled with flaws. Saying it's a genetic component driving parents to control their kids once again confuses protection with control. A natural feeling towards ownership of kids is not the same thing as a strong protective instinct, and this is the distinction that youth liberationists make and which you fail to make. An important thing that you continue to overlook that pretty much puts the kibosh on your above theory is that there are several parents in the youth liberation movement, including the prominent youth liberationist Dr. Robert Epstein, father of four children and author of the groundbreaking book The Case Against Adolescence and its more recent update Teen 2.0. So it's ridiculous to suggest that parents are biologically incapable of overcoming their desire to control their kids, or that this desire to control is based on a genetic imperative to "protect" kids. This protection instinct is due to a powerful emotional bond, plain and simple, and if we were subject to the same biological instincts of other members of the animal kingdom, then we would strive towards helping our kids achieve independence from us as quickly as possible, as do all members of the animal kingdom except for humans. Instead, we try to artificially extend childhood and dependence on kids much longer than is actually necessary, which strongly suggests emotional bonds and possessiveness rather than a genetic imperative. The argument that we are slaves of our genes is a Social Darwinist argument that is all too often used to try and convince activists that their battles for civil rights and change are futile, and we buy into this argument at our peril. For all the reasons I mentioned, the evidence doesn't hold up.
Further, and most importantly, your above paragraph makes it very clear you read posts on this board selectively, otherwise your intellectual honesty would compel you to acknowledge the many times I have mentioned that the institution of parenthood itself is not to blame for the problems but rather parental power as we know it today, that the strong emotional bond between parents and their progeny is basically in essence a good thing, and that it's fully possible and preferable to work with parents rather than against them. I have said and stressed all of these things too often to count, and it must be selectivity on your part if you have honestly never seen them even once in any of my posts, or in the posts of other youth liberationists on this board. The fact that so many prominent parents are members of the youth lib movement is proof of that, and rends to pieces your argument that we have no choice but to accept the general principle of parental ownership and that this is practically the one aspect of the human social world that civil rights activists must concede to. No area of the human world is or should be above the basic concept of liberation, because any degree of draconian doctrine allowed into a democratic framework is cumulative and ends up eventually rotting the entire framework. All of history is proof of that.
So, there I perceive a huge flaw in the youth rights movement, this belief that parents and the nuclear family structure are inherently antithetical to youth rights.
This flaw is entirely of your own imagining, because this statement is not supported by the youth liberation camp, and as I noted above, I have said quite the opposite numerous times before. I have often pointed out the large number of parents who are members of the youth lib movement and how important the institution of parenthood would remain in a youth liberated society.
However, I have no idea whether or not the nuclear family unit will remain the normative family structure in a youth liberated society, and if it's replaced by a new family unit as the norm that is more conducive to the larger degree of liberation that would be extant in that society then that is something the new society should embrace rather than oppose. There is nothing inherently wonderful or beautiful about the nuclear family unit specifically, and no activist should feel compelled to only support liberation as long as it will keep this one specific type of family unit intact. On the other hand, the nuclear family unit may indeed remain the norm in a youth liberated society, albeit a new version with more of a democratic framework to it than its current top-to-bottom hierarchical structure. We don't know at this point whether a version of the nuclear family unit will remain the norm in a future youth liberated society or if perhaps a new family form, the likes of which we may not be able to entirely conceive of today, will ultimately take its place as a new norm, and this is not a concern that we need to have. Needless to say, I can now state with absolute certainty that you do read the pro-youth lib posts here selectively if you truly believe that youth libbers contend that the youth liberation movement and the institution of parenthood are doomed to an adversarial role with each other, because this is most certainly not the truth, and there is plenty of preliminary evidence that parents are fully capable of becoming allies and working with rather than against the youth lib movement as time passes.
The reality is, kids ARE different from adults and that has to be taken into account. Small children are almost completely dependent on adults for their survival; that's never going to change.
Have you seriously overlooked the numerous instances where I and other youth liberationists have acknowledged this very thing on the board? What you said above is not in question. The only aspect of that I have ever questioned or argued is that small children--such as toddlers--shouldn't be treated as property as a result of their dependence on adults. There is a difference between caretakers and owners, and this is the only aspect of the above situation that youth liberationists seek to change.
That being the case, society will always expect the tradeoff: in exchange for adults taking care of a child, the child must sacrifice some freedoms.
Small children will, of course, have to adhere to certain reasonable rules to keep them safe, such as staying away from traffic, being fed at certain times of the day, keeping clear of dangerous animals that they may not recognize as being dangerous, avoid going near a hot stove when something is being cooked on it, keeping their hands out of hazardous chemicals around the house, etc. But that is not the same thing as expecting them to sacrifice freedoms such as their right to not be dragged to certain religious ceremonies by their parents if they do not want to go. Such a thing would indeed be a violation of their rights and would not have anything to do with protecting them from harm that they may not recognize as harm. It is a responsibility by parents and other caregivers to make sure a young child is properly fed and clothed, but it's definitely not a responsibility to see to it that they have concepts of spirituality force fed to them. Please note that I and other youth liberationists frequently point out specific examples on both sides, whereas you pretty much never do this, but continue to speak of sacrificing freedoms in generalities. This proves that it's not youth liberationists who are the ones that think in terms of black and white or general absolutes.
I understand that and I agree with it, but my question is, how do you propose [we can enforce the dictate that children should not have to be subject to unwanted non-sexual touches as well as unwanted sexual touches such as hugs and kisses from relatives that they may be uncomfortable with receiving]? Children can--and must--endure daily indignations and touches from adults, primarily parents: pokes, prods, hairbrushing, forced eating, etc., until such time as the child understands and is able to reject these invasions on solid grounds rather than just "I don't like that!" Children often do not like things that are good for them; nor do adults for that matter. I, for example, hate exercise, but I try to get some in once in awhile because I know I need it. Small children do not really understand the consequences of bad life/health choices.
Understood, but being forced to accept kisses and hugs that have nothing to do with maintaining the health of a small child is very different from parents imposing reasonable rules that help a child maintain good health and hygiene. And the problem is that this unwanted touching is imposed not only upon small children, but older children and teens who are more than cognizant enough to understand healthy vs. unhealthy choices.
I know parents/stepparents are the primary culprits of abuse, and as I've said before (but was ignored), this is really a red herring. This can be accounted for by the fact that children spend a great majority of their time with these people.
Yes, because they are forced to do so no matter what type of people these parents are, how much these parents may or may not respect their children, etc. The other reason is because of the near total power these particular adults have over their kids as opposed to adults they do not live with and are not under the direct authority of, as power is well known to be a potentially corrupting influence that all too many people succumb to. No youth libber has ever suggested that parents are inherently more capable of harming their kids simply because they are parents, or because of some silly genetic-based reason. We have stated often that in a youth liberated society, the institution of parenthood would improve immensely, and kids would be harmed by parents far less than they are today. So mentioning rather than continually ignoring this is not a red herring, but rather a much needed acknowledgment of an unpleasant fact that parental power--as opposed to the institution of parenthood itself and the parental/child bond--is a problem and not something that a true democratic society filled with people who genuinely care about kids should continue to support.
However, I do agree that there are perceptions that many parents have that lead to abuse (such as that they essentially own their children and therefore can do whatever they like with them) which can fix a huge chunk of the problem here. Parents need to understand that what they hold is basically a stewardship of their children, which means they do have some powers over those children, but they also have responsibilities to those children--the onus is on them to raise healthy, happy and well-adjusted children.
Agreed. This is why I mentioned up above that parents need to be educated into seeing themselves as caretakers of their children rather than the de facto owners of them. The two concepts are not one and the same.
I'm certain there is a genetic component to children's trust of adults. Children are small, weak and ignorant beings compared to adults, and so they have a strong incentive to trust the adults around them: their survival depends on it. Now, that does not mean that children do not rebel and test their boundaries as they grow. Of course they do. They have to understand what their limitations are within the family and the world at large and this is how they do it. But ultimately this is simply the flip side of the trust coin; it's a way for children to better understand why they should trust those adults and it's healthy and normal. You may be able to account for some of children's overtrusting nature on the structure of society, but the majority of it is clearly genetic. Ignoring this reality isn't going to make it go away.
Wasn't this the same argument once used to explain why women are naturally expected to obey men? That they were weak, emotionally defective, and small in comparison? And by saying "ignorant," what age level are you talking about here? This time, you didn't mention "small children" as you did previously, but simply said "children." Without specifying an age group, this use of the word can mean anything from toddlers to 17-year-olds who are legally considered children only because they are under the age of 18. One needs to clarify their usage of such terms, or it's justified that their readers will become suspicious of such generalized usage.
The incentive to trust adults is most certainly not genetic when it comes to older children and teens, because the level of dependence possessed by them is largely societally imposed. If kids as old as six can learn to participate in a democratic framework in a competent manner, then they are not inherently ignorant. The largest degree of human behavior is learned rather than genetically encoded because humans are much more sophisticated in their reasoning faculties than other members of the animal kingdom.
"Weakness" is a subjective term, and the inferior level of physical strength in the upper body that the average woman has in comparison to the average man used to be used as an excuse to justify women relying on men for protection, but has since been relegated to the dustbin of history as an excuse to justify male legal and political dominance. If children inherently trusted adults in a universal sense as you seem to suggest, then the large degree of rebellion we see today would clearly not be able to occur. I think the degree in which each child has a natural trust for adults is individual rather than across the board.
I think a lot of the long-time [pro-youth liberation] posters are beginning to grow and recognize that this is far from a simple black & white human rights issue in the same sense that past civil rights battles were.
A certain stance doesn't need to be absolute on the black and white scale in order to be the right or preferable stance. None of the past civil rights battles were black and white on the morality scale either; the emancipation of blacks and women brought sacrifices that society had to make and entailed certain risks, such as the economic infrastructure of the pre-emancipation societies collapsing, the family unit the society was accustomed to falling apart, forced adjustment and adaptations to other changes that had arguably negative effects on society (at least in the short term), etc. These concerns expressed by those who were ambivalent about these emancipation movements were not entirely invalid, and emancipation did have some consequences as these people predicted.
The thing is, in the past--and I believe in all cases in the future--what we gain from emancipating groups of people is better than what we lose and sacrifice by doing so. A similar and interconnected case is the general freedom vs. security argument: I do not by any means believe this is a black and white issue, but I favor greater freedom over excessive security and "protection" because I firmly believe the former is the preferable choice when the pros and cons of the two stances are weighed together. Does the pro-freedom stance have certain cons in addition to its pros? Yes, most certainly, and no reasonable or cogent person can deny this. The pro-security side does provide some valid concerns. However, my stance is simply this: I believe the real sacrifices we need to make in order to have greater freedom ultimately outweighs the sacrifices we would have to make in favor of greater security. This is not seeing the issue as black and white, but rather arguing which side is preferable, which side is ultimately the better to take for society in general, which set of sacrifices are more in harmony with the progressive principles I hold dear and would be easier for all concerned to live with, and which set of consequences I earnestly believe are better for society in general to deal with in the long run. This is why I always support democracy over the police state imperative despite some of the valid concerns those in the latter camp have. There can be no doubt that some sacrifices have to be made for democracy, and certain consequences will invariably follow its establishment, but I simply though firmly believe the virtues possessed by democracy, liberation, and freedom for all groups of people greatly outweigh the prices we have to pay to maintain it.
Some required viewing for you: I urge you and all others who are concerned with the liberation vs. protection argument to watch the two-part episode of the Justice League animated series entitled "A Better World" from season two of the show. That episode deals very directly and in a surprisingly overt manner with the very argument I just detailed up above, and will explain exactly why I--like the Justice League from the Earth we are more familiar with (yes, the story involves an alternate Earth version of the Justice League known as the Justice Lords)--ultimately chooses freedom/democracy over security/heavy protectionism despite the fact that certain real sacrifices need to be made in the case of either. The subject is not treated in that episode of the show as a black and white issue, which it's not; it simply explains in an entertaining and exciting fashion why youth liberationists and pro-democracy advocates in general ultimately side with the stance in favor of liberation and freedom over that of protection and security. The general issue is very relevant to the argument for youth liberation, along with all other forms of liberation as well.
With that said, I would like to mention yet again that I believe many of the legitimate concerns that many people have if youth emancipation is to occur can be dealt with and mitigated by democratic solutions rather than those favored by the protectionist camp.