Children’s Responsibilities – Part VThursday, June 14th, 2012
The following is part of a series of articles on the rights and responsibilities of children and of families. On our site, we’ve published a Children’s Bill Of Rights, with all of the sections in the bill. You can take a look at Children’s Bill of Rights.
(To read more about the Children’s Bill of Rights, look at articles at this site, and at Homeschool Hows & Whys.)
Let’s look at the last of a child’s responsibilities. I’ll keep the comment on each of these short. Again, the right will be stated, followed by child’s responsibility in italics and in red. That will be followed by my comments.
The Right to Needed Medical Care
Every child has the right to any medical care needed to guarantee the health and well-being of the child.
You have the responsibility to take care of your own health as best you can. You have the responsibility to tell your parents or other adults if you are sick or injured.
As we discussed earlier, a child has a responsibility as he gets old enough to do so to care for many of his own body needs. He should actively participate to keep himself healthy.
But there are limits to what a child can do. When any of us are sick or injured, we may very likely need assistance. It’s swell to want to “push through”, and even commendable in an emergency. But given reasonably normal circumstances, a child who is ill or injured should immediately inform his parents or guardians. They have the job of keeping the child safe and well, and their assistance will likely be required to restore the child to well-being as rapidly as possible. Most children can’t pay for doctor visits, or drive themselves to a hospital. (When ill, many adults cannot do those things.)
Illness or injury places a person at a disadvantage. An adult may be able to struggle through, but children’s bodies are usually not as strong as an adult’s. They are developing strength and adult qualities, but that takes years. It is very important that the relationship with the child’s teachers or parents (or other adults watching over him) be safe enough for the child to report physical concerns. It can be a matter of survival, and a child must be made to understand this. Parents are not “mind readers”. Though tell-tale symptoms might give away an injury or illness, this is simply not always the case.
Sometimes a child will not tell parents about a problem for fear of worrying them. What a child needs to know is that parents worry about the things they do not know or understand more than the things they can actually do something about, even if what needs to be done is costly or difficult. A child also needs to know that illness or injury can get worse and cause greater problems if not addressed early on. What’s more, some illnesses are contagious, and a child has a moral obligation to let others know that he may have such an illness.
The Right to Legal Protection
Every child should have the right to the same recourse to law as any adult. What is more, the law should make special efforts to protect children. A child has the right to have their testimony heard and accepted, as would any adult.
You have the responsibility to always tell the truth about things that you’ve seen, heard, or that were done to you, and that were bad or wrong. You have the responsibility to tell your parents about anything you’ve seen, heard, or had done to you that you believe was bad or wrong.
Bearing false witness can lead the world to distrust one entirely. Remember the Boy Who Cried Wolf? Though the truth may be dangerous sometimes, it is rarely more dangerous than a lie.
A child should feel safe enough talking to his parents, teachers, or other adults responsible for him to inform them about destructive or harmful things either seen, or committed against the child himself. That kind of trust will help a child survive.
As a child matures into his or her teen years, they should be taught about the “rule of law” – as shaky as that rule seems at times to be. Rule of law is not only a “great equalizer”, but it is intended to protect the most vulnerable among us. That would certainly include children. A child must come to understand that when faced with an evil or destructive person or institution, he has recourse and help. He must not be asked to face such things alone. No one should.
The Right to Vote
Every child of a reasonable age should have the right to vote, and to participate in the politics of their nation as those politics most certainly will change the child’s life. Every child has the right to self-determined political opinion and suffrage, not to be limited or shaped by family or others. The right to vote should start when the child understands the issues, regardless of age.
If you are going to vote then you have the responsibility to find out about the issues, to understand them, and to form your own opinions and ideas based on facts. You have the responsibility to vote based on your decisions only.
What it says is what it means. A test for such understanding should be required, fair, simple and clear. “What does this bill mean in your own words” will do. If a child gets it and can discourse, then he should be allowed an opinion and a say. You can set a lower limit on the voting age – say lower it from the current 18 to 13, assuming the child can pass the test. But any lower age is arbitrary in this regard. It is understanding and self-formulated opinion we should be looking for as the qualifier for voting. If an eight year old can capably do this (admittedly very rare), why should he not vote to protect his own future?
I’m certain that this one will be debated. The biggest arguments will include that a child has not formed opinions of his own, he lacks experience to have them. Another argument against will be that children will be unduly influenced by their parents (or peers) as to how to vote. Both good arguments – hence the required test to simply discover if a child wishing to vote has the necessary understanding and self-possession.
By the way, the same arguments against voting could easily be applied to many adults who vote. If we had to pass a similar test before voting, would we make it? Not many of us.
Not to Participate in War or Conflict
Every child has the right to refuse to participate in military service. Every child has the right to refuse to support any military action or effort that they disagree with. Every child has the right to walk away from any fight or battle and not “lose face” from having done so.
You have the responsibility to attempt to discover the real reasons why a war or conflict is being fought. You have the responsibility to decide if your nation deserves to be aided by your joining the military, or not. You have the responsibility to join or not join based on your beliefs, and to be willing either way to accept what happens next.
Wars are largely fuelled by nationalistic or religious propaganda. Please don’t deny this, it’s just a statement of fact. Before insisting a child (even one of age 18, say) should be packed off to battle to perhaps never come home again, that person has the right to demand an explanation for his nation placing his life at risk. An explanation, by the way, without jingoistic patriotism. Why the war? Why should a person be willing to die to fight it? Just the facts.
In fact, all of the people of a nation deserve exactly that kind of an explanation before accepting the need for any kind of battle. It’s all too easy for a government to send others to war, and to “assume the responsibility” for “running” that war from the safety of their homes and places of government. If the first to go were those who declared the war necessary, how many wars would we actually have? I imagine almost none. And where children are concerned, or young adults, this would be an entirely good thing.
The role of the conscientious objector is time honoured, though there are many people who feel that it is an “unpatriotic” thing to do. Jail time is often the reward a conscientious objector receives. I hope that the people who insist that we should all be forced to fight could learn a real lesson from the early history of civilization. Governments came into existence as strong men agreed to protect their people from outsiders and enemies, in exchange for cooperation. This is the history of tribes, but it is also the history of kings. It is the story of civilization in large part.
In this relationship there was a sacred trust, one that even today makes a king or queen into someone considerable in many eyes. The ruler would not allow the shedding of the blood of his people without an extraordinary reason. Needless to say, kings and governments have abused this trust uncountable times and to devastating results. Nonetheless, that is the trust implied in the governed/governing relationship. A government that fails this test has not the interest of its people at heart and it should be replaced.
A child, indeed anyone, has the right to an honest accounting before being sent into battle. Once the reasons for war are truly understood, the individual then has the sacred right to agree or disagree with the national or group purpose. This is a matter of personal conscience which is senior to and transcends national conscience, contrary to what some people may wish to believe. It is not “group first”. A group is nothing but a bunch of individuals working toward a common goal. If the goal that the group is working toward does not align with one’s own goals, then one should not participate or be forced to participate.
Any nation, any police force, can bully individuals into compliance. They have the numbers and weapons, and the threat of imprisonment or worse. But such use of force abnegates the moral high ground the government may have claimed for itself. One’s decisions as to the willingness to kill or be killed for a group such as a nation are purely personal. This is as intimate a decision of conscience as exists. It should be informed, but once made, it should be respected.
That’s it for articles about the Children’s Bill of Rights! There are 29 of them, between our two blog sites, published between March 8th and today. We hope you’ve found the entire Bill of Children’s Rights and these articles food for thought, and of use.