Rights and Obligations

We are posting with permission this interesting piece on Rights and Obligations by Monica Felipe-Larraide, a member of the Spanish home education group ALE.

A few weeks ago we received news of a new sentence against home education. In this case, a couple, both primary school teachers, had decided to take their son out of school for pedagogical reasons in order to home educate him.

The judge who had reached the verdict, in a display of linguistic tightrope-walking, has stated within the judgement:

The “authority” that parents have to give their children a “well-rounded” upbringing doesn’t mean that they can teach them “at their own free will”, that is, as they please.

“They cannot claim rights that belong to the children and not the parents as their own, such as the right to an education.”

It seems rather a dialectical leap with a double loop. He literally says: They cannot claim rights that belong to the children and not the parents as their own, such as the right to an education.

Oh dear. Because a magistrate confuses right with obligation it is something tricky. A right is the power an individual has to do as they wish provided it is within the law or to receive any state benefits offered by the authorities.

For example, we have the right to public healthcare (for now), which means that I can demand to be attended to in case of illness and yet retain the option to resort to other private avenues or alternatives.

On the other hand, an obligation, as everybody imagines, is an imposition that must overrule free will. In other words, if instead of being a right public healthcare were an obligation, it would mean that I was obligated to be cured in a public health centre. I’d have no choice but to be treated (I have an obligation to be healthy) and furthermore would have to receive the treatment in a public health centre.

You can try to do the same experiment with the right to vote and turn it into an obligation.

So according to this sentence, the child has the right to be educated (not an obligation). While as parents we have the obligation (and not the right) to educate our children.

But as soon as this is said, the judge twists everything around in order to give himself the desired outcome and he ends up saying that the child and the parents have an obligation to educate the child in accordance with state regulations.

But since it is not so nice to be government-controlled so forcefully, he uses the word right to express an obligation. Because if the child has the right to be educated it means that s/he can choose to be educated or not and how to do it. And the constitutional right to an education is nothing more than a shadow in this sentence.

I don’t know about you, but to me it reeks of fascism.


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