Thursday, June 15, 2006

Where do your rights come from?

Today, we began the final lesson of the year; that lesson being the Age of Enlightenment when all those famous political thinkers like Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Hobbes, and Voltaire gave us those nifty ideas about individual freedom, equality, and limited government that made their way into the founding documents and philosophy of this great nation of ours.

My standard method of introducing this topic is to ask my students where their rights come from. Specifically, I ask them, "Who gives you your rights?". Their typical answers often make me want to gag. Here are some of my favorites:

  • The government (always one of the first, and worst, responses
  • The president (imagine depending on Bill Clinton to give you your rights)
  • The Congress (shudder)
  • The courts (yes, they covered all the bases!)
  • Parents (not bad, but I'm almost 34, and I don't ask my parents permission anymore)
  • Yourself (not bad, but what if I give myself the right to kill that guy over there?)
  • The majority vote (Democracy isn't all it's cracked up to be: what if the vote was "kill everyone with brown skin"?)
Finally, some student would finally put the rest of them out of their misery by saying the correct answer, which is God or Creator. I am always scared to freaking death at the number of people who think that it is the government that gives them their rights. If there is one thing my students remember when they walk out of my classroom for the last time at the end of the school year, it is that their rights come from their Creator, and their rights cannot be taken away without due process of law, which doesn't include a majority vote.

Tomorrow is my last instructional day of the year. Next week is the last week of school, and my plan is to show Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World while I finish entering grades. This will be the first film I have shown all year, so it doesn't bother me all that much. The best day next week will be the last. I will be a chaperone for the trip our 6th/7th graders are taking to a local water park. While they have their fun, I will be getting a tan and gabbing with my fellow teachers/chaperones.

The best thing is that when the new school year begins in August, I will receive the coveted status of tenured teacher. After that, I won't be so prone to keep my trap shut.

Good Day to You, Sir


T said...

Maybe you should cut your students a little slack. Did you ever that that when you ask "who give you your rights" they think of things like the right to bare arms, or the right to vote, etc. In that case, some of their answers are not as laughable as you seem to think they are. Maybe you should clarify what "rights" you are referring to when asking children a question like that. Just a thought.

Chanman said...

The problem is that these kids grow into adults who continue to think that their rights come from government. I don't expect all 7th graders to know this stuff; the problem is that they never do, even after they grow up.