Scholastic due process

The abolition of common sense, chapter whatever: Scottish schools warned as detentions risk breaching pupils’ human rights. The issue is that the European Convention on Human Rights says that “No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law … the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision …” So when you send a kid to reform school you need a court order, a perfectly sensible result. Interpreting the provision to apply to after-school detention is bizarre, though. If it applies to something as little like prison as staying an extra hour after school, it’s hard to see why it wouldn’t apply to required school attendence generally, or for that matter to parental curfews or any exertion of parental authority.

Why do local bureaucrats read the Convention in such a silly way? The reason, I think, is that we’ve been trained to view legal justice and human rights as something altogether at odds with common experience and expectations. Our rights are no longer something known to us because they are part of a way of life belonging to us without regard to government action. Instead, they are created by experts and functionaries and must be explained to us because otherwise we couldn’t understand them. The usual view is that the “rights revolution” that has led to this situation has greatly expanded and secured the rights of the people. It is hard to see how that could be right. How could it possibly secure the rights of the people to turn them into something only government experts can understand?

7 thoughts on “Scholastic due process”

  1. Children are forced to go to
    Children are forced to go to school, they have no choice. (Although there is actually no legal compulsion.) Therefore it is quite reasonable that detention should be seen as a breach of human rights.

    If you were forced to attend an institution would you see being kept there against your will for even longer as a breach of your human rights. Of course you would.

    Why do we find it totally acceptable to hold children against their wishes but totally immoral to do the same to an adult?

    In this circumstance the problem is caused by the compulsion in education (schooling) remove this compulsion and you remove the problem.

  2. The Universal Declaration of
    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes compulsory education a human right though. If a school day of some length is required by human rights, why do human rights forbid extension of the day by an hour?

    In any case, the liberty of a child is not the same as the liberty of an adult. Children are always in someone’s custody. Should we treat that situation as a human rights outrage, because we would think it an outrage if the state appointed someone our custodian?

  3. I think you will find the
    I think you will find the declaration says that children have the right to an education, not a compulsory one. Education does not mean schooling. Schooling is just the way the state likes us to do it.

    If school was voluntary (It actually is but the state doesn’t advertise this.) then this girl could decide whether she wanted to go or gain her education by other means.

    If she decided she wanted to go she could then be expected to behave in such a manner as to not warrant getting detentions. Looking at it from the school’s perspective, if education was voluntary and she misbehaved then they could easily use the sanction of refusing her access. As things stand at the moment (In the UK at least.)schools are under immense pressure not to exclude pupils and that is why forms of punishment such as detention are over used.

    Children do not need to go to school to gain an education, indeed school can sometimes positively prevent an education. As I have stated already, take away the compulsion and you take away problem.

  4. “Why do we find it totally
    “Why do we find it totally acceptable to hold children against their wishes but totally immoral to do the same to an adult?”—Mike Peach

    Because the child is not yet a fully developed agent, completely autonomous and able to rule himself. It’s the same reason we tolerate the spanking of an unruly child, but frown upon physical violence aimed at adults.

    In most places, prior to our current regime of Rule By Leviathan, parents granted their local schools the authority to exact these mild punishments upon their children. This was an act of *the parents*, not of the courts, and it was so because way back when we actually used to think (can you believe it?) that people were pretty good judges of what was good for them and theirs.

  5. The “experts” should be
    The “experts” should be forced to endure teaching a junior high school class for a few weeks. You realise very quickly that the main issue is not upholding the “rights” of students, but preserving the thin line of civilization by an assertion of adult authority. Young people can change very quickly from polite and cooperative, to foul-mouthed, foul-minded, violent and bullying.

  6. Continued from previous
    Continued from previous post:

    I hasten to add that the judgments of parents *today* may well be different than the judgments of parents past, given that the schools themselves are decidedly different in character than they once were. My point is simply that there is nothing unjust in itself about after-school detention as punishment for minor breaches of the rules. Local parents can and should decide for themselves whether they want it or not.

    It is, indeed, the wresting away of local control itself that has made schools into the kinds of places many parents don’t want their children to attend, much less be detained in.

  7. Article 26(1) of the UDHR:
    Article 26(1) of the UDHR: “Elementary education shall be compulsory.”

    If you have a school at all you have to have some system of discipline. I don’t see why after-school detention is particularly oppressive as a means of discipline, or why it raises any human rights issues additional to those raised by the nature of the school and the child’s obligation to attend.


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