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John Holt

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John Caldwell Holt

The educator and home-schooling champion, John Caldwell Holt (April 14, 1923 - September 14, 1985) is of interest because of the radical youth rights literature that he published. (See his book Escape from Childhood – The Needs and Rights of Children.)

Holt advocated that “all people, including young people, should have the right to control their own private sex lives and acts”. He considers that “it is not the proper business of the state or government to pry into such matters”. While defending the thesis that children should be given the same rights and citizenship as adults, he observes that until this happens, and unless children are legally emancipated, parents should at least be able to forbid their children to have sex at (their) home.


Holt refutes the concept of childhood innocence:

Many of us (…) still believe and need to believe that children are ‘innocent’ and ‘pure’, that is, asexual, untainted by sexual thoughts, feelings or urges. There is increasing evidence that this is not true even of very young children, and it is certainly not true of children much past the age of ten or eleven."
"No one is more truly helpless, more completely a victim, than he who can neither choose nor change nor escape his protectors."

He sees laws on Age of Consent as unfair and morally wrong, and firmly opposes them:

For the state to deprive someone of liberty by putting him in prison is a most serious act. (…) It can only be justified by the most weighty cause, that the prisoner did real harm to others. But to make the act of sex, the mutual giving and receiving of pleasure, the excuse for putting someone in prison seems both mistaken and morally wrong.

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