Reading through the current issue of Education Revolution, I found an interesting article by Elana Davidson titled “Moving Beyond Age Discrimination,” with this highlighted quote:
“Children are the only classification of citizens in our society against whom discriminatory abuse is not only legal, but actually encouraged and carried out by laws themselves.”
What is age discrimination? The writer explains:
“We consider such practices as limiting people’s movement in the world, making decisions that affect them without their participation or consent, and invasion of privacy and personal and physical space without just cause, to name a few, as violations of personal freedom and rights and yet these are common experiences for children and young people.”
I also liked this quote from the text:
“When one takes a critical look at the justification for the subordination and disenfranchisement of youth and children, the arguments for exclusion such as children being irrational, amoral, inexperienced or incapable of deciding what is in their own best interests start to fall apart.”
The most visible example of age discrimination in our society is age-related curfews, a subject we’ve covered in great depth over the years. From a 1999 column by Larry and Susan Kaseman:
“Daytime curfews require that police stop and question young people who appear to be of school age but are not in a school building during conventional school hours. Those who cannot provide a convincing reason for not being in school are either fined or taken into custody.
It is often surprisingly and frighteningly easy to get curfews passed by town, city, or county governments. Proponents of curfews claim that curfews are needed to combat truancy and juvenile crime. Although serious juvenile crime rates are the lowest in 30 years, many people still fear and distrust young people, partly because the media gives so much attention to sensational crime.”
The Kasemans understand the complexities involved:
“It is often difficult to convince people to oppose curfews. Many people do not stop to think about how curfews threaten basic freedoms. Those who fear crime or are shocked by truancy may feel curfews are necessary. Parents whose children are not truants assume that curfews will not affect their family, so they don’t need to bother to oppose curfews.
It is especially important that we homeschoolers oppose curfews, perhaps assuming leadership roles. We understand more clearly than many people how government regulation can interfere with learning and family life, and we have experience working together to oppose harmful legislation.”
In a 1998 article, “Nighttime Curfews or ‘You Wanna Do WHAT to My Kid?’” Mary McCarthy explained what she did to fight a local curfew law, and the successful challenges and legal precedents she found in her research:
“The first is Hutchins v. District of Columbia. U. S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan issued a permanent injunction against D.C.’s curfew, ruling that minors “possess a fundamental right to free movement to participate in legitimate activities that do not adversely impact the rights of others.” He also noted that curfews violate the rights of parents to make responsible decisions about how to raise their own children, and in doing so do nothing to make the streets safer. Arthur Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU of the National Capital Area, further noted, “The proper response to juvenile crime is to arrest the criminals, not to put thousands of law-abiding young people under house arrest.”"
Janie Levine Hellyer addressed the subject in her 1997 article, “Truancy, Curfews, and Our Response”:
“Is this a “homeschool” problem? We are seeing how many homeschool families and groups have worked hand-in-hand with local officials to ensure that homeschoolers are not negatively affected by these regulations. Should we not, however, be concerned with freedom for all young people, regardless of where they are being educated? According to many, these new regulations are once again being enforced disproportionately against children and teens of color and those who look “different.”
Those who support civil liberties for young people are taking stands opposing these curfew regulations. As the mother of a homeschooled teenager, I oppose any ordinance or regulation that would keep my son or any other young person from accepting a daytime job, visiting the public library or simply going to the store to buy milk. Once again, we need to stand together and fight these regulations which will essentially put all children under “house arrest” until they reach the acceptable age.”
Returning to Elena’s article:
“While most cultures of the world today are perpetuating to some degree an oppressive relationship between adults and children, if we become aware of such dynamics, we can shift our thinking and our culture in ways that minimize their impact and build a more cooperative and supportive culture for all of us.”