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?