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Child Rights: The Movement, International Law, and Opposition

Edited by Clark Butler
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Purdue University Press
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  • Book Info
    Child Rights
    Book Description:

    Over twenty years after the 1989 UN General Assembly vote to open the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) for signature and ratification by UN member states, the United States remains one of only two UN members not to have ratified it. The other is Somalia. Child Rights: The Movement, International Law, and Opposition explores the reasons for this resistance. It details the objections that have arisen to accepting this legally binding international instrument, which presupposes indivisible universal civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, and gives children special protection due to their vulnerability. The resistance ranges from isolationist attitudes toward international law and concerns over the fiscal impact of implementation, to the value attached to education in a faith tradition and fears about the academic deterioration of public education. The contributors to the book reveal the significant positive influence that the CRC has had, despite not being ratified, on subjects such as educational research, child psychology, development ethics, normative ethics, and anthropology. The book also explores the growing homeschooling trend, which is often evangelically led in the US, but which is at loggerheads with an equally growing social science-based movement of experts and ethicists pressing for greater autonomy and freedom of expression for children. Looking beyond the US, the book also addresses some of the practical obstacles that have emerged to implementing the CRC in both developed countries (for example, Canada and the United Kingdom) and in poorer nations. This book, polemical and yet balanced, helps the reader evaluate both positive and the negative implications of this influential piece of international legislation from a variety of ethical, legal, and social science perspectives.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-205-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction Multidisciplinary Responses to the International Rights of the Child
    (pp. 1-10)
    Clark Butler

    The essays in this volume largely express ways in which the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been interpreted and used by those who are active in disciplines other than international human rights law. A large body of literature shows that there is considerable precedent for nonlegal, pedagogical, political, psychological, anthropological, and ethical reflection on the use of human rights law. Much of the moral conscience of humanity has been stored away in such law, and remains in that law ready to be retrieved by being interpreted as a statement of moral law. Historically, the...

  5. One Children’s Rights: An Historical and Conceptual Analysis
    (pp. 13-36)
    Clark Butler

    There was a time, exemplified by early Roman law, when children were considered property of the family father, who had a life-and-death power over them. This was no longer the case by the time of the French Enlightenment. Yet the enthusiastic reception given to what Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) considered his most important work,Emile,¹ was nothing less than the discovery of preschool childhood by the reading public of Europe in the eighteenth century. This was an important and lasting discovery. Before Rousseau, children were often viewed within the upper classes as little adults, and were dressed accordingly, but not allowed...

  6. Two The Case for the Convention on the Rights of the Child from the Perspective of Child Psychology
    (pp. 37-54)
    Katherine Covell

    During the latter part of the twentieth century there was a growth of human rights consciousness, and of knowledge about and legislation to protect healthy child development.¹ These trends converged to produce a changing view of children from one of parental property to one of independent persons with dignity and basic rights of their own.² During this time, recognition of the status of children as persons with rights increasingly was reflected in the incorporation of a children’s rights perspective into new legislation, legal principles, and court decisions.³ That status received official recognition with the adoption by the General Assembly of...

  7. Three Developmental Considerations in Teaching Children’s Rights
    (pp. 55-72)
    Katherine Covell and R. Brian Howe

    The value of human rights education cannot be overestimated. Human rights are of fundamental importance to a just and democratic society and knowledge of human rights is fundamental to the achievement of human rights. Successful human rights education not only provides knowledge of rights and the responsibilities that go with them, but also on a practical level engages learners and engenders rights respecting attitudes and behaviors. For human rights education to be successful it should start early, be integrated into school curricula, and engage children by providing human rights knowledge of direct relevance to them. Most relevant to children is...

  8. Four Introducing Critical Thinking and Dialogue in Preschool
    (pp. 73-92)
    Marie-France Daniel

    In most industrialized societies, violence is a cause of increasing concern. Violence is observed and condemned in secondary schools, and even in elementary schools. It is the school’s responsibility to promote programs oriented toward the prevention of violence. My position, based on the values of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is that prevention must first begin with stimulation of competencies on the cognitive (critical thinking) and discursive (dialogue among peers) levels. Furthermore, I assert that this stimulation must begin as early as preschool. To this end, the instrument I favor is the Philosophy for Children (P4C) approach,...

  9. Five Nannies with Blue Berets: The UN Convention and the Invasion of National and Family Sovereignty
    (pp. 95-114)
    Michael P. Farris

    A number of philosophical principles central to the American founding are implicated by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The chief motivation driving American independence from Britain was a record of parliamentary invasions of long-standing principles of self-government. Many of the specific allegations against King George enumerated in the Declaration of Independence illustrate the Americans’ commitment to govern themselves. When King George gave his assent to parliamentary laws “suspending our own legislatures, and declaring [the parliamentary laws] invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever,” the Americans claimed a violation of their inalienable...

  10. Six Educational Freedom and Human Rights: Exploring the Tensions between the Interests and Rights of Parents, Children, and the State
    (pp. 115-140)
    Perry L. Glanzer

    When discussing human rights and education, a tension always exists between the educational rights and freedoms of parents and children and the role of the state with regard to both groups.¹ If one looks to the United Nations’ rights declarations and treaties for help resolving this tension, one will not find a clear answer. On the one hand, the original Universal Declaration of Human Rights appears to give parents the priority in this balancing act. It states, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”² School choice proponents such as...

  11. Seven Implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada: A Question of Commitment
    (pp. 141-156)
    R. Brian Howe

    There is no question about Canada’s official commitment. In 1991, with the approval of the provinces, with the exception of Alberta, the Government of Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), committing governments at all levels in Canada to a policy of ensuring that Canadian laws, policies, and practices are consistent with the rights of the child as described in the CRC. Alberta initially was hesitant, but in 1999 it too gave its support.¹

    Official commitment, however, is not the same thing as actual commitment. Official commitment is when a government makes a pledge...

  12. Eight Implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the UK: A Problem of Political Will
    (pp. 157-174)
    Claire Cassidy

    This essay explores the difficult implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in one developed industrial nation, the United Kingdom, where we might expect children to enjoy a favorable situation in relation to their rights. The 2008 report of the Committee on the Rights of the Child has documented the UK’s limited success in implementing the convention. While not denying some successes, I shall summarize the funding, coordination, and other obstacles to the implementation of basic protection and provision rights as highlighted by the committee. However, from a pedagogical perspective, what is most important is...

  13. Nine Motivating Political Responsibility for Children in Poor Countries
    (pp. 177-200)
    Stephen L. Esquith

    More so than any of the other rights in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the rights of participation, especially the right to form and freely express one’s own views “in all matters affecting the child,” depend upon a right to an education appropriate to “the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society.” When read together, articles 12 and 29 underline the importance of a democratic political education for all children.¹ Who is responsible for providing democratic political education? The CRC assumes that “State Parties” have the primary responsibility for the...

  14. Ten “The Right Child”: Challenges and Opportunities of Child Rights Legislation in Theory and Practice
    (pp. 201-226)
    Krisjon Olson

    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been used by international aid agencies and the Guatemalan government to bolster community reconstruction following the armed conflict (1960-1996). Child rights discourse, with its particular logic of protection, is in tension with a postwar context where children are both the survivors and perpetrators of violence. An anthropological study, based on a decade of ethnographic fieldwork, demonstrates that, as young people have become a focal point for reconciliation and social reintegration, conflicting ideas of the “right child” emerge in contemporary Guatemala.

    The view that human beings have rights, simply...

  15. Eleven Pragmatism, Capabilities, and Children’s Rights in Development Ethics
    (pp. 227-240)
    Jennifer Caseldine-Bracht

    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted by the General Assembly in 1989, went into effect on September 2, 1990. Internationally, public opinion tended to be overwhelmingly in favor of this convention, the most ratified international convention on record. As of November 2008, 193 countries have ratified it; the only members of the United Nations that have not ratified it are the United States and Somalia. In this paper, I will examine the philosophical underpinnings of such approval and argue that the capabilities approach, coupled with a pragmatic methodology, is the most promising path towards...

  16. Annotated Bibliography
    (pp. 241-246)
  17. Contributors
    (pp. 247-250)
  18. Index
    (pp. 251-257)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 258-258)