The conservative broadsheet press is reporting that children are involved in large numbers in demonstrations against the military action in Iraq. Of course, I only know this because the liberal broadsheet press has been sold out recently. The reaction against these demonstrations is interesting.

I've never been a big fan of the child protection lobby. I think this is because what I really feel is that children deserve to be treated with respect, which to me means largely treated like adults and taken seriously. This means being expected to know right from wrong at an early age, and I've had long arguments about it with people, especially Protestant people.

Children are subject to much arbitrary authority, that is to say, are expected to acquiesce in other people taking decisions about them without consulting them, and punished for disobedience. Parents and schools, in particular, are regarded as having such authority, and many people believe that this legitimises physical violence against children by such people. I fail to see why teachers who physically attack children should not be dealt with extremely severely indeed, rather than defended by the Daily Mail; the same newspaper whips up life-threatening hatred against others who attack children.

I am particularly concerned by the use of the authority of the State to impose third-party liability on the parents of rebellious children; I tend to loathe third-party liability wherever it is found anyway, but this is particularly pernicious. Parents are held to be responsible for the activities of their kids even when there's nothing they can do about it. Holding a parent liable for a child's truancy just creates an additional source of familial conflict, without achieving much else.

Apparently children can be arrested for truancy. Why on earth is this a matter for the police? It's a matter between the school and the pupil. And if this is to be a public law matter between the individual and the State, why is it additionally permitted to be a private matter between the student and the school's disciplinary authorities? Given that the truancy in question at the moment is related to political protest, there exists the danger that the nature of the political activity will improperly be taken into account when punishing the truancy (in the school's privately administered disciplinary system administered by a body which must determine whether it has itself been brought into disrepute by the accused). Precisely this problem contributed to the collapse of the King's Squatting case a few months ago.

We now read that the police in Leicestershire are prowling round schools to pick up truants. If any other group of adults tried it on prowling round schools, they'd be lynched.

Telegraph story link (needs registration)

King's discplinary case