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Children’s Rights and the Parental Authority to Instill a Specific Value System

1 January 2006


Liberals who want to support multiculturalism need to be able to justify the parental authority to instill cultural value systems or worldviews into children. However, such authority may be at odds with liberal demands that citizens be autonomous. This paper argues that parents do not have the legitimate authority to instill in their children a specific value system, contrary to the complex and intriguing arguments of Robert Noggle (2002). Noggle’s argument, which draws heavily on key ideas in Rawls’ theory of justice, is that children are not moral agents and that parents are in a special kind of fiduciary relationship vis-à-vis their children. Noggle’s position is contrasted with the more limited conception of parental authority advanced by David Archard (2002). I argue that we can accept that parents are agents of their children, but contra Noggle, this does not entitle them to impose their parochial value systems onto their children. I argue that while children have an interest in acquiring values, they do not have an interest in acquiring a value system.


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