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46


L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 46, May 15, 1999

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 and ties.

           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 time:

           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 rights.

           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 authority-worshipping populace.

           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.


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