Re: DSM: Re: Slavery, Education, Political Philosophy, Caring, Human Rights, Effecting Change

Alan Klein (
Sun, 6 Feb 2000 11:47:28 -0500


You asked for my thoughts, which are mixed. I, too, try to work form
original principles and that is what makes this such a thorny issue. In your
examples, how does circumcising an infant give it the ability to "re-choose"
later on? What (and whose) criteria will be used to judge whether or not a
"person may not be able to make her/his will known, and s/he may not even be
aware of the nature of the choices"? If a baby acts bored at church, do the
parents have a moral obligation to leave? If a young child asks to go home
from church early, does the child's right to leave supercede the parents'
rights to remain? If my 97 year old grandmother in the nursing home says, "I
want to go home", clearly indicating her wishes, do we have the moral
obligation to take her there?

Somehow, no matter how hard we try, original principles seem to only work as
guidelines, not as the firm and fast rules we may wish them to be.

Keep on philosophizin'!

----- Original Message -----
From: Scott David Gray <>
> I return to fundamental political principals (you can tell which
person in
> this group is NOT a parent himself, I guess).
> A person always has the full complement of rights.
> However, the person may not be able to make her/his will known, and
> may not even be aware of the nature of the choices. Under those
instances, it
> is the obligation of those looking out for her/him to do make seems like
> most reasonable choice, given those things already known about the person,
> does not unnecessarily close off her/his freedom to re-choose later.
> It is acceptable for a religious family to assume, for example, that
> infant (until she makes it plain otherwise) is practicing the same
religion that
> the parents are and to baptize or circumcise as appropriate. This is akin
> the legal authority that we give some adults over another, when the other
> is unable to make her/his will known. Consider the theoretical question
> "what would s/he want us to do?"
> A parent doesn't need to "dole out rights" but can instead "yield
power of
> attourney when no longer neccesary."
> Thoughts?
> Alan Klein wrote:
> > Scott,
> >
> > Thank you for an eloquent, thoughtful message. I find myself in a great
> > internal quandary, however. As someone who has been a staff member and
> > co-founder of a democratic school I am in total agreement with what you
> > in the passage I quote below. I have often used such reasoning myself in
> > discussing the fundamental nature of the change that needs to take
> > from my point of view.
> >
> > As a parent of grown and growing people, however, I find myself being
> > absolutely sure that when they were babies I did (and do) indeed believe
> > that I "(knew) better for" them than they did. My belief in their
> > equality as human beings certainly shaped how I interacted with them and
> > was usually accused of "letting" them do too much and make too many
> > decisions for themselves, but at some fundamental level I was in charge.
> > some point that balance changes, of course, but it is clear to me that
> > is a shift.
> >
> > If this is so, then are we back to doling out rights, or at least doling
> > the age and/or stage at which those rights take force? For me, it's
> > as unanswerable a human conundrum as the "when does life begin" debate.
> >
> > Thanks again for your (as ever) thoughtful and straightforward addition
> > this discussion.
> >
> > ~Alan Klein
> >
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: Scott David Gray <>
> >
> > > Is it ever possible to reform things a "piece at a
> > > time?" I think not, when the fundamental question is such a
> > > fundamental one. The difference between the educationists and
> > > those who prefer a Sudbury type approach, is that one group
> > > thinks that we should debate when/where to DOLE OUT rights to
> > > children, while the other recognizes rights as INTRINSIC and
> > > argues that they can only be TAKEN AWAY with cause. Either
> > > you believe that individuals have certain basic rights, or you
> > > don't. For as long as people believe that group A (adults)
> > > know better for group B (children) the minutia of how their
> > > lives should be run than group B does itself, there will be no
> > > lasting change to the modern educationist policies.
> -- Scott David Gray
> reply-to:
> Phone: 508/650-9639
> ICQ: 27291292

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