2nd Prize Winner
Age Group 19-21
The Prison of Childhood
by Rhys J. Southan, age 19
Childhood is a totalitarian regime, and schools are the mental
concentration camps. Education is described by the mis-educated as
real-life preparation; in actuality, schools train people to accept a
society where the government and other institutions tell us what to
think and do. Experience is the best teacher, and the purpose of
school is to prevent experience.
If school attendance were voluntary, schools would have to reform
themselves to meet students needs, because if students could leave on
a whim, schools would suddenly have to prove their worth. But by not
giving us a choice about whether to accept the government's favors
early on, we all unwillingly sign a contract with Uncle Sam that
says: "Since you did so much for me in my early years, I'll return
the favor by letting you take away half of my money and tell me how
to live my life." Because kids grow up in an oppressive society, it's
predictable that when they leave the controlled world of childhood,
they vote for politicians who promise security instead of freedom.
Few adults understand freedom and individual rights because we're
taught about the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and
the Bill of Rights in school, the most authoritarian environment in
America next to prisons. Kids learn early on that even in a free
country you are mandated to sit in cramped desks, read, write, and
listen against your will. If you think for yourself in school, you
get bad grades, and that's why America doesn't notice the government
stripping away our rights. When our minds are impressionable, we
learn that freedom means taking orders. Government officials should
not teach the Bill of Rights until they've read it for themselves.
The compulsory education system hasn't changed because it's
insidiously self-promotional. People are told over and over that
school is necessary for success, so almost all graduates, and even
dropouts, believe it. Selective memory and propagandic yearbooks help
adults forget the negatives of school and only remember the positive,
but to counter-act this process, instead of getting classmate
signatures in your yearbook, you should use the blank pages in the
back to document everything you hated about school.
Vague edu-speak phrases such as "educational excellence" are
thrown around as excuses to trample over student rights. Because
administrators want to eliminate all things that "distract from the
learning environment," collectivism is mandatory ("You come to school
to learn, not to express individuality"). Since schools establish
that doing what teacher says is more important than being human, they
can get away with imposing dress codes, mandatory volunteerism,
disarmament, group-think, and a host of other rights violations.
Schools claim that by controlling what students wear, they are
simply preparing them for a world where businesses dictate employee
clothing. Ironically, it's the domineering nature of school that
creates the conformity-laden "real world" that requires formal suits
Mandatory volunteerism for kids flourishes because even though
students get nothing out of school, politicians want to get something
out of them. Having students "pay their dues" to the people who are
enslaving them is similar to laws that seek to have prisoners pay for
their own jail expenses.
If we really want to teach kids responsibility, letting them have
knowledge of the importance of firearms would be a good start.
Because of their smaller size, kids are more vulnerable than adults,
and thus should be given the right to bear arms for their own safety.
Age is never mentioned in the constitution, yet schools somehow
get away with claiming that once the class bell rings, the
constitution becomes irrelevant. When students are taught about
numbers in Kindergarten, teachers might as well have them count all
the rights in the Bill of Rights that won't protect them for a long
The First Amendment says: Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of
the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for
a redress of grievances.
For a school-kid, this translates to: you cannot freely express
your religion without punishment; you can only talk when you raise
your hand, and even then you cannot speak against the authority of
the teacher; your school newspaper is censored; you get suspended or
expelled for participating in a peaceful protest; the school sees any
complaints that you have as evidence that you are trouble-maker who
doesn't realize the importance of a good education.
The Second Amendment says: A well-regulated Militia, being
necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to
keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
School translation: metal detectors will insure that no
law-abiding students will have a means to protect themselves from
aggressors; violent students will devise a way around this, and as
these criminals blow away innocent students, they can thank school
administrators for not having to worry about returned gunfire.
The Forth Amendment says: The right of the people to be secure in
their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable
searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall
issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and
particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or
things to be seized.
School translation: probable cause doesn't apply because kids
always have guns and drugs stashed somewhere; we'll use drug sniffing
dogs, strip-searches, locker checks, random drug tests, automobile
inspections, and anything else to help us find something
prosecutable, making us local heroes.
Because freedom is only an abstract theory to students, it's easy
to remove their rights outside of school as well. Curfews,
age-minimums for purchase of certain legal items, mandatory military
service, and child labor laws are all the logical extensions of a
school system that teaches that thinking is best left to authorities
instead of individuals.
If the point of the curfew is to cut down on crime, and if people
of all ages are capable of crime, why are only youths not allowed
outside at night? Easy. They can't vote. If a teenager is out at 2am
and kills three people, he should be punished accordingly. But if a
teenager is out at 3am, playing roller hockey with his friends, he
should not be hassled because the government says it's past his
bedtime. There are loopholes, however. Minors who have worn political
T-shirts, passed out fliers, or had protests while hanging out past
the curfew have been left alone by the police or won court cases
against them, because they were exercising their First Amendment
Once American men turn 18, even though they are still too young
for legal drinking, they are forced to sign up for Selected Service
(the SS initials are appropriate). This allows the government to
force any young man to die in battle if there's a vaguely defined
"crisis." If you don't register, you can get a $250,000 jail fine and
five years in jail, but don't be intimidated. Here is the law,
according to the SS Web site: "…a man must register with Selective
Service within 30 days of his 18th birthday. Selective Service will
accept late registrations, but not after a man has reached age 26."
Because the definition of "late registrations" is so ridiculously
lax, you should delay signing the card until one month before you
turn 26, thus closing the window of time you might get drafted from
eight years to thirty days.
Supposedly well-intentioned child labor laws force kids out of the
legitimate job market, causing them to settle for menial wages
through lawn work, or fundraising for their sports team or school
organization, earning minimal profits for them and maximum profits
for the adults. This might lead many kids to an unhealthy smoking or
drinking habit, because the counter-productive alcohol and cigarette
laws make the activities seem cool and rebellious.
The qualifications for adulthood should be the ability to function
in society without handouts from mom, dad, and the government, all of
which does not rely solely on age. A key step toward fostering an
individualistic mentality would be to petition for the removal of the
voting age. If kids voted, politicians couldn't use them as targets
for mainstream America's anti-freedom attitudes, which are the direct
result of an archaic government school system that produces an
Other minorities had their civil rights revolutions because
racial, gender, and sexual minorities are minorities for their entire
lives, so had more passion to fight. Youth is a minority label that
disappears with time, but the oppression that young people experience
has permanent damaging effects. Never forget how degrading a
freedomless childhood can be, and until America finally wises up,
keep your fake ID's handy.