Resolved: An adolescent's right to privacy ought to be valued above a parent's conflicting right to know.
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Unlike the last bimonthly resolution over globalism, which resembled the Jan/Feb resolution of last year, this topic has no parallels. I know all the briefs you read on various topics say that all the topics are unique, but this resolution truly escapes the humdrum conflict of the individual versus the state. The conflict boundaries of this topic, with a couple of notable exceptions, occur almost entirely within the family.
This resolution is, to say the least, philosophically problematic. Traditional philosophy seems to exclude the rights of the child from its scope. Most likely, you will have to take a generic philosophy, such as Locke's Social Contract, and show how children are coverered or not covered under the bounds of specific rights.
The following definitions are not from any dictionary, as they are simply meant to highlight the differences between the Aff and Neg perspective. For your cases, consult a real dictionary.
- An adolescent... Your definition of this term will depend on the perspective of your case. If you are arguing the legal realms and ramifications of the topic, you would want to define an adolescent as someone who is not a child but not yet a legal adult (over 18 years of age). If you are arguing from a more ideological perspective, you will want to say that adolescence is socially derived rather than legally derived.
- ...right to privacy.... Caution: privacy is not secrecy. The more mainstream definition covers both the right to be left alone and the right to self-determination.
- ...ought to be valued above... Not really very important; simply implies that there is an obligation to show that one right is morally superior to the other.
- ...parent... Can foster parents still be considered parents under the bounds of the topic? You will have to look at your case and then decide whether or not you should include them in your analysis. Also: does the "parent" the resolution refers to necessarily have to be the parent of the adolescent in question? Does a parent of another child have a right to violate an adolescent's privacy? He or she would still be a parent, just not the parent of that particular adolescent. Can a priest or pastor be a parent? What about a court-appointed guardian? Just all things to think about...
- ...conflicting... The prescence of this term confuses me. There seems to be no direct overlap between the two rights. By definition, privacy concerns only those issues about which there is no right to know. Similarly, the right to know, by definition, concerns only those issues for which there is no right to privacy. There is no overlap, only a strictly defined boundary. The resolution implicitly asks the debaters to determine where that boundary ought to be set.
- ...right to know. Contextually, the right of a parent to interfere with his child's autonomy.
Here are some Affirmative Value possibilities and their related arguments: (I have presented them in what I think to be descending order of strength)
- Autonomy Pretty easy to defend, and very solid at that. You get the emotional appeal of protecting liberty from intrusion, plus tons of philosophy to support you. Just make sure you prove why adolescents deserver autonomy.
- Self-Actualization Adolescents deserve a chance to self-actualize themselves, and they cannot do so without privacy. The right to privacy promotes introspection and the development of a positive self-worth, both of which are essential to self-actualization.
- Human Dignity All humans, including adolescents, have inherent dignity. However, if we deny adolescents privacy, we dehumanize them, which is a bad thing.
- Social Contract I personally don't like this, but it nevertheless still be worked. Construct your case something like this: the Social Contract gives all individuals privacy rights. Adolescents deserve consideration under the Social Contract, and thus deserve privacy as well.
- Utilitarianism Workable but cumbersome. Adolescents would be happier if they were given privacy, and denying parents the right to know will not affect their happiness. Or, Mill's Utility standard is based on individual rights, and Utility is not possible without giving adolescents privacy.
Here are some Negative Value possibilities and their related arguments:
- Safety The safety of the adolescent is the penultimate standard is child-rearing. Any action that compromises the safety of the adolescent, even if it enhances his autonomy, cannot possibly be considered justified. Argue that parents can make safer decisions than their adolescents simply because of their greater experience at dealing with sensitive issues.
- Family The family is probably the most important social institution we have. Granting adolescents privacy rights in the context of family relationships is couterproductive because it undermines the family.
- Parent Autonomy Parents have absolute authority over the family, and even though it is seemingly totalitarian and oppressive, this perspective has served us well since the beginning of civlization.
- Civic Virtue The family is the bedrock of all values - kids learn morals and values through the family. In order for society to continue flourishing, parents must keep imparting values to their children, which they cannot do without sometimes violating their kid's privacy.
- Legal Accountablility Courts are holding parents increasingly responsible for the actions of their minor children. Parents, in the name of their own legal accountability, must know whether or nor their children are committing illegal acts.
Whichever side you are on, be willing to grant some ground to the other side. The judge probably doesn't expect you to uphold privacy/the right to know as absolute, and will most likely reject an attempt by your opponent to make you do so. On affirmative, be ready to claim that although parents sometimes must violate their adolescent's right to privacy, we shouldn't deny adolescents rights as a group just because of a few situations. On negative, argue that although privacy is important, it is not absolute and must sometimes be subjugated for safety.
Have fun, and be sure to use the judge's inherent bias (depending on whether or not he/she is a parent or college student) about the topic to your advantage.
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