Carefree days of youth

There was shock, horror and head-shaking in my late ’70s law school procedure class when we read a Supreme Court opinion to the effect that education wasn’t a fundamentally adversarial relationship and it didn’t make sense to insist on full adversarial procedure (notice, a hearing, right to counsel, right to confront witnessess etc.) before students were suspended for a few days. Many simply lost all respect for Justice Powell, the author of the opinion. The professor, older and more tolerant, attributed the opinion to special features of Powell’s psychology and personal history. All who spoke up agreed he was incomprehensibly out of touch. Anyway, here’s a good example, 25 years later, of the all-too-comprehensible effects of treating the relationship between children and adults as fundamentally an arm’s length matter of rights: Sex and violence begin at 12 in English homes for wayward youth, and there’s nothing their keepers can do about it. After all, if you respect rights there’s no way to govern the personal lives of people (like 12-year-olds) who don’t want their personal lives governed.

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