Bong Hits 4 Pudge

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Someone says to me "If school weren't essentially mandatory I would agree with the sentiment that you check your rights at the doors. But the reality is very few people have the ability to opt out via private school or home education. So given that the govt basically forces the kids to be there via mandatory attendance laws, I think it becomes critically important that your rights be maintained while under the govt thumb."

Setting aside home and private education, and also the internal logic of that argument, I'd like to question the premise a bit.

Isn't the greater offense that we are forced to be at school, in the first place? Sure, you can say it is for the greater good. So too can I say speech restrictions are for the greater good.

Let's look at relative harm (setting aside positive benefits, for now). You are forcing me, without being convicted of a crime, using physical force if necessary, to spend the better part of 12 years of my life's waking hours in a government-run institution, which I believe to be largely concerned with my indoctrination, at least as much as my education. And on the other hand, you don't let me hold up a sign that says "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

Which is the greater harm? In most contexts, the former is called "kidnapping." I don't care what you call the latter, to me, it doesn't approach the relative harm of the former.

I'll take "forest for the trees" for one thousand, Alex.

That's not to say there's no greater good to come out of the former. But as an originalist and a little-l libertarian, I do not believe that the greater good can or should come out of the denial of fundamental liberty for the individual, unless, in some extreme hypothetical case, it's the only way to protect the liberty of the individual. And that is, of course, not the case here. You can accomplish the same thing by having schooling (of any kind) be voluntary.

But since school is going to remain mandatory, let's talk of rights. Since I am forced to be in the school too, shouldn't I have rights as well? You are taking away my right to be where and do what I want to do, and significantly harming my right to association. The government forces me to sit next to you and to be with you for hundreds of hours; should it allow you to subject me to any expression that you wish?

This is not a public square where I can just leave, or a TV where I can change the channel. I am forced, by the government, to be here. Should that crime be compounded by allowing whoever I am forced to be here with subject me to things I'd rather not be subjected to?

Of course, we can't take this too far. We can't let everyone say "that offends me" and have it thereby disallowed. You need a balance. You need to at once protect the kids who are forced to be there from potentially damaging expression, while at the same time protect the rights of all to reasonably express themselves. There's got to be a "reasonable person" standard here, and that standard should be enforced by the local authorities. If you don't like how it is enforced, get a new school board to fix it.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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