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We Beat You For Your Own Safetyby youthrights.org
One of the most grating claims of ageist individuals is that the laws that deny young people freedom, equality, and civil rights are only for their own protection. That the status quo is one of respect and dignity for youth. To challenge the system as it exists will only put young people in danger - their freedom would endanger them, it is claimed.
One of the most glaring examples of their duplicitous reasoning is the support among many for corporal punishment. Often in my work, corporal punishment is very low on our list of priorities. Not because of a lack of importance, but because it seems so obviously barbaric and inhumane that I often fool myself into believing just a few fringe sections of society still practice it. Every so often I am confronted with the sad reality that it is not a fading peculiarity, but for many youth a constant, brutal reminder of the oppressive society we live in.
This article prompted me to address the subject. What is striking about it is the victim of this paddling happened to be an 18-year-old student - legally an adult. After a paddling that landed the young woman in the hospital, she is suing the school. This statement by her lawyer bothers me:
“This case is not about a crusade against corporal punishment,” said Dan Hargove, her attorney. “It’s not a crusade against charter schools. … This case is about three adults holding down an adult female and beating her with a wooden paddle so bad that she ended up in the hospital.”
Why is it any less of a crime if three adults hold down an 8-year-old girl and beat her with a wooden paddle so bad she ends up in the hospital? Or a 13-year-old or 17-year-old?
Forgive me if I wander, but this issue gets me so mad I can’t think straight at times.
Our system of preferential treatment of adults is of no protection and no worth to youth. It creates a class of voiceless victims to brutality. The law protects this young woman because she is 18. The law has no protection for her 17-year-old classmates. They have no recourse, and no newspaper prints articles involving the brutal beatings they suffer.
Next time a person claims the current system of age restrictions is done out of love for children, and for their own protection, show them pictures of the bruised and bloody victims of that protection. Those who suffer physical punishment of such form are not safe. Those who have no legal recourse to stop it are not safe. Those whose lives exist entirely in the hands of adult authorities who justify violence in the name of love are not safe.
It is often said we in the youth rights movement pretend young people and adults are the same in every way and ignore real differences between the classes. I am not one to pretend no differences exist. Children on average are physically smaller, physically weaker, and less able to defend themselves than adults. Why then do our laws protect the bigger stronger adults from violent beatings and not those in most need of that protection?
Written by: youthrights.org
3 March 2006