All the child advocates out there, all the parents’ groups, all the public interest people… they have one supposed goal. They must protect children. They must help children. They must do all they can, even things the children might not like right now, for the children. Sure enough, there are people who may think NYRA goes against these rules. After all, they’re trying to prevent underage drinking and young drunk driving deaths, and here we are saying “lower the drinking age!” They’re trying to make parental controls and other such tools for technology, and here we are saying parents should trust their children and respect their privacy. Here they are trying to keep kids off drugs, and here we are decrying drug testing in school.
But there is a great misunderstanding here.
Youth rights supporters are not about endangering children and making idealistic statements about rights in spite of safety issues. We seek not to soothe the hysterical public with nice-sounding “solutions” to the dangers that lurk to harm kids. Rather, we seek to battle something that harms kids perhaps more than anything the aforementioned groups fight against. In fact, their battles only increase this great harm.
The greatest harm you can do to someone is to remove all means of that person protecting his/her own self, and society has been doing that to youth incessantly. How? By not only never telling them how to deal with many of the problems they face, but telling them only to avoid those situations altogether. Doing everything possible to keep them from being in compromising situations.
We don’t teach young people how to drink alcohol responsibly. We only tell them not to touch it until they are 21, and if they touch it beforehand, they are criminals who are destroying themselves. That’s interesting really. How are you protecting young people by making them criminals? Somehow I doubt protection is really the number one goal.
Young people are forbidden from most jobs. Why? To protect them from being exploited in the workplace apparently. Despite all the labor laws in effect, it is inconceivable to think of a 14-year-old working part time in an office making copies and filing some things, so he can learn to make his own money and maybe save for college. Better yet, working with adults, it would help his maturity and give him a real taste of what the working world is like. Instead, he is forbidden from this, restricted to high school where he is surrounded by his also-restricted peers, where the only adults he associates with are in a position of power over him. Yet apparently this is supposed to protect him? By cutting off any means he may have of earning his own money or learning about the adult world? By ensuring he will become an adult completely ignorant of what it is like and with little to no money?
Abstinence only education! Teaching kids that sex is bad and harmful and will always have negative consequences if had under 18. Not how to practice safe sex, but to preach that the only option is to avoid it until adulthood/marriage. Not a word of instruction about condoms, birth control, diaphragms, or the like. Only that if a teen were to have sex, it would always end up in unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. As if these concepts are completely unheard of in the adult world, married or not. Protecting kids by withholding or denying them or preventing them from getting information on how to protect themselves? I just don’t see it.
Curfews. Don’t teach your daughter how to be safe when walking around at night. Just make it illegal for her to be outside, and you won’t have to worry about it. She doesn’t know how to protect herself from the dangers of the dark (caused by and aimed at all ages), but instead, we “protect” her ourselves by not letting her out at all, thus keeping her ignorant.
There’s also driving. Teach teens to protect themselves on the road? Here’s an idea! Let’s “protect” them ourselves by not letting them drive at all until they’re adults. Because 18 and over, car accidents are unheard of, right? Let’s convince ourselves that teens are innately incapable to protecting themselves and driving carefully, so we can step in and be the great protectors by forbidding them from doing it at all. Who cares if their learning is delayed or halted? Their safety is more important apparently.
I think you get the picture. That is what we are battling. If anything, we’re the only ones who genuinely want to protect kids. We want to enable them and teach them to protect themselves, and the way to do that is to not shelter them from inevitable dangers in their lives. That is not childhood. That is incarceration. “Childhood” should be about learning, trial and error while living in a setting where your errors do not cause irreparable harm. Yet if you are kept from learning until such a safety net is removed, how exactly are you being protected? Whose needs are really being served?
What do these situations have in common? I touched on it with the workplace thing. All these things mean that “children” are not “acting like adults”. Drinking, working, driving, and other such activities are considered “adult”. Somehow “being adult” is harmful to kids in and of itself. But… why exactly? Aren’t they going to be adults before long anyway? Wouldn’t being in these situations better prepare them for the lives they’ll eventually have? Why would we deny them this? Why do we keep them out of our “adult” world?
There are a couple of obvious reasons. The “child protectionist” types wouldn’t like to hear it, and would call you names for even suggesting it, but it’s true. The idea is to keep “children” away from adults, so that adults don’t have to deal with them. They don’t have to see them at work where they’d have to treat them as equals. They don’t have to share the road with someone they don’t believe is as entitled to the privilege of driving simply because of lack of life span. They don’t have to think of someone they’re convinced is an “innocent being” as having sex. They don’t have to see “children” outside late at night, a time that’s apparently supposed to be for “adults only”. In short, it all comes down to anti-youth bigotry.
Protecting children? Hardly. More like insecure adults trying to protect their egos. As if they had some constitutional right to feel superior to fellow citizens because they’ve lived longer, lived past a certain age. This is worth endangering the next generation in such callous, irresponsible ways? Sad thing is, so few people even care in the slightest about that.
Excellent post, excellent points.
I totally agree with your article, you made a great point. 🙂