You are on page 1of 4

Candidate's Name

CT Group

GP Tutor

HWA CHONG INSTITUTION


JC2 PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION 2009
GENERAL PAPER

8806/2

PAPER 2

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes


Date: 4 September 2009
Time: 1015 1145 hrs

INSERT

READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS FIRST


This insert contains the passages for Paper 2.

This insert consists of 3 printed pages.

Passage 1: Michael Freeman writes


1

At a recent convention addressing the plight of oppressed groups, a United Nations report pronounced:
They easily become victims. They have not been accorded either dignity or respect. They have been
reduced to being seen as property. Was the UN referring to migrant workers? Women? Homosexuals?
Minorities? No it was referring to children. Hobbes formulation of a world in which life is 'solitary, poor,
nasty, brutish and short' aptly describes the existence of many children who have to contend with the 5
very real and harrowing incidences of poverty, disease and abuse that are rife across the globe. In order
to effectively eradicate such unconscionable exploitation, all countries should make the articles contained
in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child legally binding. Children need legal rights
because they are a particularly vulnerable group whose protection needs to be ensured. It is also
imperative that such rights are ratified by governments because it is only through prosecution and 10
punishment that future abuse can be effectively deterred.

There are those who view childhood through rose-tinted spectacles, seeing it as a golden age
synonymous with joyful innocence during which we, spared the rigours of adult life, enjoy uninhibited
freedom and experience unlimited play. The argument runs thus: just as childhood releases us from the
responsibilities and adversities of adult life, so there should be no necessity to think in terms of statutory 15
rights for children a concept which we assume is reserved for adults. Some even argue that giving
children rights would subvert the inherent responsibilities of parenthood. They also assume that adults
already instinctively and spontaneously provide the love and care children need, so that the case for
children's rights becomes superfluous. In building this mythic walled garden around childhood, such
claims idealise and distort the adult-child relationship, ill-reflecting the lives of many of today's young 20
people. Most damningly, in its unquestioning acceptance of the traditional family roles of adult
custodianship (i.e. dominance) and child dependence (i.e. subservience), such a false stereotype
serves to legitimise social attitudes that tolerate the use of force in disciplining children for their own
good.

Legal rights are important because those who lack rights are like slaves, means to the ends of others, 25
and never sovereigns of their own selves. It is surely significant that whenever we have wished to deny
rights to those who have attained chronological adulthood in the past, such as blacks in South Africa or
the American South, we have labeled them as boys. Even if one concedes that children are in some
way different from adults because they are economically dependent, it can be argued that it is precisely
because of this difference that they deserve indeed require to be accorded rights, so that their 30
welfare can be duly protected. It is indeed a cruel irony that so many Western liberals focus their
energies on achieving equal rights for our dumb animal cousins whilst millions of children worldwide
suffer from unspeakable abuse.

As well as protecting children everywhere from cruelty and exploitation, they should also be accorded
rights to empower them as autonomous agents of their own lives. In the developed world in particular, 35
children today grow up at meteoric speed. They are a generation of techno-savvy netizens able to
access adult material on the Internet more easily than most adults. Targeted by the mass media as a
valued audience group and feted by advertisers because of their spending power, they are becoming
streetwise much earlier. Indeed, many teenagers today reach levels of cognitive and moral maturity that
give them the capacity to be less reliant and more self-disciplined than some adults. It is time we stop 40
treating young people as docile dependents and recognise them instead as persons who are capable of
making up their own minds on matters such as the education they receive, the media they consume, and
the company they keep. According children rights ensures that the parental power to dictate yields to the
child's right to make his own decisions, so that a more equitable and democratic parent-child relationship
can rightfully be attained.
45

Arguments against legally prescribing a specified set of childrens rights are manifold. Religious groups
condemn the notion as heretical, employers complain that it would be economically injurious, parents
perceive the proposal as downright intimidating, and even some human rights proponents cynically
observe that it would be merely a cosmetic exercise. But none of these objections can be ethically
sustained. If humanity is to progress, we have to acknowledge that to truly protect children is to protect 50
their rights. We have to treat them as persons entitled to equal concern and respect, deserving to have
both their present autonomy recognised and their capacity for future self-determination safeguarded.
Adapted from Michael Freeman, Taking Childrens Rights More Seriously

Passage 2: David Archard writes


1

With rising juvenile delinquency and rampant teen violence, more people are questioning whether we
should accord legal rights to children such as those promoted in the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of the Child. Talk of childrens rights at United Nations level is always elevating but except for
extreme cases of wilful enslavement and enforced child labour, who would wish to protect the rights of
children to freely express themselves in loutish behaviour that threatens the safety of others? What is 5
truly lamentable is when we see people in Britain thinking twice before confronting a truculent twelveyear-old in case he pulls a knife on them. The view that unfettered personal liberty and statutory rights
should take precedence over disciplined social citizenship is preposterous. Any further emphasis on
childrens rights would merely encourage a destructive permissiveness that would not only further rend
our social fabric but also rot the moral fibre of our youth.
10

It is specious to say that children are no different from adults. Merely arguing that children are capable of
making choices overlooks the fact that the vast majority of them are unable to form consistent beliefs,
make reasoned and reasonable decisions, or fully appreciate the significance of their actions. Their
immaturity and lack of life experiences do not equip them with the capacity to make sound judgments.
Children are not unique amongst humans in this respect. Those adults who are seriously mentally 15
impaired are also disqualified in the same way. Just as no one would give a mentally ill adult a gun to
wield, so no one should insist that children be given rights to brandish before their parents. A further
point is that with rights must come responsibility. While normal adults are entitled to their rights, they are
equally expected to exercise them judiciously and behave in a manner that does not ignore the rights of
others. This is a notion often alien to the egocentric world of the average child where impulsive self- 20
gratification and petulant attention seeking often eclipse all other considerations.

The argument that children be afforded the protection of special rights against abuse and exploitation
because they are an exceptionally vulnerable group is similarly fallacious. If specific childrens rights
were meticulously itemised and codified, a maelstrom of misguided litigation would ensue which might
actually do more harm than good, traumatising the child we are trying to protect. Taking the best interest 25
approach to the welfare of a child may also neglect the interests of others. For example, we cannot be
required to promote the best interests of a child over and above, and without regard to, the interests of
any relevant adult. It might be in the best interests of children that their guardians give up every waking
minute to their care, but adults should not have to completely sacrifice their own welfare for that of their
children. Besides the problem in interpreting the best interest principle, nations who commit to legally 30
adhering to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child will most certainly need to curtail
spending in critical areas like social welfare schemes for the poor in order to fund the expensive luxury of
child protection programmes.

We cannot deny that children remain dependent on their families. Instead of the incessant clamour for
legal rights, there is a more pressing need to morally educate and guide children, a function best fulfilled 35
by parents. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child undermines the fundamental
liberty and responsibility of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. For instance,
protecting their children from pornography would violate their freedom of expression and right to
privacy. Parents would no longer be able to opt out of school sex education programmes for their
children or choose to homeschool them if these decisions were considered not in the childs best 40
interests. Disciplining a child by caning could land a parent in jail as any child under 18 would be
protected by the convention from degrading punishment and physical violence. Heaven forbid that
young people should do what they are told! Moreover, embodying the convention in a set of punitive
laws will not miraculously reform neglectful or abusive parents, nor will it make caring ones any more
loving.
45

We need to recognise the inappropriateness of legally imposing childrens rights. To do so would be to


ultimately undermine what constitutes the family as the distinctive form of human association it is. In a
family, what is needed is a reliance on the benevolent dispositions that the individuals bound together
have instinctively and spontaneously towards one another, without any need to claim or assert what
is due to someone as a right under law. Love, not externally imposed justice, should prevail in a 50
harmonious home; allowing children to insist on their rights will only erode the natural affections and
attitudes that render the need for rights unnecessary in the first place.
Adapted from David Archard, Children: Rights and Childhood