Children's rights under the law
by Hillary Clinton
The basic rationale for depriving people of rights in a dependency relationship is that certain individuals are incapable or undeserving of the right to take care of themselves and consequently need social institutions specifically designed to safeguard their position. It is presumed that under the circumstances society is doing what is best for the individuals. Along with the family, past and present examples of such arrangements include marriage, slavery, and the Indian reservation system. The relative powerlessness of children makes them uniquely vulnerable to this rationale. Except for the institutionalized, who live in a state of enforced childishness, no other group is so totally dependent for its well-being on choices made by others. Obviously this dependency can be explained to a significant degree by the physical, intellectual and psychological incapacities of (some) children which render them weaker than (some) older persons. But the phenomenon must also be seen as part of the organization and ideology of the political system itself. Lacking even the basic power to vote, children are not able to exercise normal constituency powers, articulating self-interests to politicians and working toward specific goals. Young children in particular are probably not capable of organizing themselves into a political group; they must always be represented either by their parents or by established governmental or community groups organized to lobby, litigate, and exhort on their behalf. The causes of younger children have not fared well, partly because these representatives have loyalties diluted by conflicts between children's rights and their own institutional and professional goals.

Harvard Educational Review, November 1973, p. 493.

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