Though I do not wish to use this blog to espouse politics, nor to debate those things, I do not want to ignore issues of human rights. Therefore, I am making this exception...
"A youth is to be regarded with respect. How do you know that his future will not be equal to our present?" ~Confucious
Ares has a post on "Clouds and Letters" which talks about the suppression of some Philippine students' right to freedom of speech. These students faced suspension over what they wrote in protest of the school's administration and policies. I did not read what they wrote and have no idea what it is. I did not seek to find out what they wrote because I did not want to be affected by my own biases that might be triggered by the themes. In fact, the particular issue they protested is unimportant to me.
Ares' post made me consider some things. In a comment to her I spoke of my experience in school. In the 50s and early 60s, freedom of speech was not extended to students. We were minors, we had fewer rights than adults. The idea was that we needed to mature, to learn, in order to understand the responsibilities that go with those rights. Our rights were subordinate to our parents' and to the authority of adults.
Of course, we chafed against those restrictions. But authority (the school administration and the general public opinion) was adamant that students had no rights not granted by the school. We were not yet citizens or, perhaps, people. We had to wait until after we graduated to have those rights bestowed on us.
To some degree, I regret we did not demand to exercise those rights when I was in school.
This exercise of freedom of speech is part of social evolution. Rights are deemed, in the US, to be inalienable. It means they are not confined to adults, they are inherent to being human. This is an idea which is spreading throughout the world. Will young adults, children, abuse those rights? Can a right such as freedom of speech be abused? Can recognizing this right in non-adults harm them?
Students might step over the boundaries adults think should exist. By doing so, they test the commitments a society has to preserving those rights. They also test the reality of those rights.
There is danger in allowing individuals to define boundaries for themselves without regard for consensus within a society. But there is a greater danger in restricting rights, for whatever reason, without the consent of those affected.
I believe it is the school's responsibility to gain that consent through reason, to gain consensus, rather than to dictate. I also believe that it is necessary that the student learn that there are consequences when the consensus is ignored. In other words, there are boundaries that society may deem appropriate. What better way to learn this than through pushing against them?
And what better way to learn what boundaries are, indeed, appropriate?
A Night Unremembered
7 years ago