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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » What is there were NO age-restrictive laws?

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Author Topic: What is there were NO age-restrictive laws?
Heather
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This was brought up at another forum, and I'm curious as to what some of you think of it.

I have my own opinions, but I'll reserve them for now, as I'm interested in your thoughts.
http://www.asfar.org/declaration/Dec.html

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Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

"If you're a bird, be an early early bird --
But if you're a worm, sleep late." - Shel Silverstein


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Beppie
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In theory I think that age restrictive laws are not as effective as they could be, due to the fact that just because someone is a certain age, it doesn't necessarily mean they have achieved or lack a certain level of maturity, but in practice many of them are necessary. Some of the changes proposed in that link I would agree with, but most I would see as highly problematic.

Just to go through them:

Voting
I don't think that children should be able to vote, because it is highly unlikely that they would understand the issues at hand. Meanwhile, it is highly likely that parents would use their children as a means of getting an extra vote, coercing them to vote for a particular canditate. I would, however, support the idea that the voting age be lowered to 16.

Free Speech
Very difficult issue. I like the idea of movie ratings being guides rather than legally binding. My views on age-based censorship tend towards the idea that if we educated children better, there would be little need for any legalities regarding what they could or could not watch. The two issues that are often addressed in these discussions are sex and violence. In my experience, from my own childhood and from observing children is that when there is sex in a film/book and the child doesn't understand the concepts that surround it, they will tend to not notice it. If a parent discovered that their child was reading or watching something with sex in it, I would say that the best thing to do would be to use it as an opportunity for sex education- go through was is accurate and inaccurate in said depiction of sex. Violence is trickier- how can we really know what it inspires people to do? However, I will say that violence has been around a lot longer than television. My father had no television when he was a boy, but most of the games he used to play were very violent.

I've veered off the topic a bit though. The gist is- with better education, laws regarding what children could obtain would be irrelevant, but since education is incredibly crappy- well, I'm not actually sure what I think, to tell you the truth.

Age of Majority
Ideally, this would be decided on individual cases. There are some kids would would do quite well for themselves at only 10 years old. Most kids though, are simply not ready for that kind of responsibility, and I would imagine don't want it.

There are two sides to the issue. Some kids really need someone to tell them exactly what to do- they'd fall apart otherwise. However, there are some parents who use the fact that their kids are minors to manipulate them, and try to make up for what they believe are their own failures by pushing their kids in unwanted directions, resulting in nuerosis for the whole family.

Corporal Punishment
Well, I pretty much disagree with corporal punishment in any form, except for parents smacking their kids in a way that is not too painful. There's been a lot of outcry about the law in one or two European countries that forbids parents from hitting their kids, but I looked at the law, and it said they weren't allowed to hit them in any way that would leave a mark. I would assume that would mean bruises and/or broken skin, so it doesn't really prevent smacking at all. My parents smacked me occaisionally when I was little, and I sure don't feel like my parents abused me at all.

However, it is interesting that when I brought this up in conversation with my parents, my father said that when a parent does smack a child, it is usually done in anger, as a mark of the parent's frustration, rather than out of any real belief on the part of the smacker that it is for the good of the child. That, he says, comes with rationalization.

Education
I think that all children under a certain age should have to attend school. The moment you make it non-compulsory, you'd get parents keeping their kids out of school so they could work for the family, or for other corporations as child-labour.

I do agree that no child should be forced to wear a uniform. I always hated wearing uniform.

I agree to some extent that children should determine their educational destiny. While there must be a basic coverage of core subjects in primary/elementary school, just so that the kids know what they have to choose from, once that stage is done, more and more freedom should be given until the student choose just about all of their own subjects.

Courts
I'm highly uncomfortable with the idea of a jury in the first place. Most people have no conception of the term "beyond reasonable doubt", and judge by their emotions. I don't know if any Americans are familiar with Lindi Chamberlain (they made a Meryl Streep movie about it, so I suppose you are), but in this case an innocent woman was found guilty of murdering her baby- something I read about the jury deliberation (verified by members of the jury) was that their discussion was more about whether or not they thought Lindi was capable of murdering a child, rather than on whether or not she actually did it. And this was adults. Many children wouldn't even have the attention span to sit on a jury, much less understand things that adults themselves cannot grasp.

Public Places and Businesses
I think that there should be some restrictions on employing children under certain ages, for the same reason I believe in compulsory schooling- because you end up with child labour otherwise, and this does not benefit children.

I do think that pay for younger employees should be more equal though. Of course, to a fifteen year old, $6.50 an hour might seem like heaps, but a twenty-one year old doing exactly the same work earns more than twice that. I can understand paying someone extra based on how long they've been with a company, but if a fifteen year old and a twenty one year old do exactly the same work, then I don't see how it's fair to pay one less than the other.

Economics
I disagree with most of this. There could be some arguments for lowering the age to 16 in special cases for credit cards and loans, but they'd have to be pretty damn special. However, I don't think there'd be that many financially capable 16 year olds.

Health and Sexuality
I agree with the medical care and contraception being available to all.

The idea that consent could be judged on a case by case basis is a nice one, but probably couldn't be established well enough. What consitutes consent is a grey area. I'd propose something like having 16 as an umbrella age of consent, but having a loophole, that for under 16 year olds, there is a two or three year leeway- that way a 16 year old won't get charged with statutory rape for having sex with a 15 year old. It's not perfect, but in general I think it would work pretty well.

Travel
Are these people really in earnest? Many children haven't even developed the motor ability (in the sense of hand-eye coordination etc) needed to safely drive a car.

Curfew Laws
I'll agree with that, I don't like the idea of age based curfews, or the idea of curfews as all except in the direst of dire circumstances.

Drinking Age
Tough one. Like the censorship/ratings issue, I think that it would be more prudent to improve education. Teach sensible drinking, rather than saying none until you're 18 (in Australia) or 21 (in the USA). Of course the effects of alcohol are especially detrimental in kids, so I think there has to be some laws about it, unfortunately.

My parents never worried that much about me drinking alcohol, although they did know that I'm pretty sensible which would have counted for a bit. When I was about fifteen I started drinking wine with dinner occaisionally, and would sometimes have a beer (although I really don't like beer that much). I got drunk a few times while underage, and I think the most important thing is that by that time, I knew enough about drinking sensibly that I didn't cause any harm to myself or anyone else, and that is still the case for me when I decide to drink. However, I see some kids who've been taught that alcohol is the biggest no no in the world, and the moment they're behind their parents' backs, or the moment they turn 18, if they can't manage sooner, they go off, get drunk all the time, and don't know what to do with themselves, and end up doing things like unsafe sex, driving and that sort of thing. So in that way, I think that age laws might do a lot of harm.

Right to Bear Arms
Now I think they truly must be joking. We don't have any such ridiculous gun laws in Australia (in fact, I think our gun laws are too strict), but even restricted to adults, that right to bear arms thing causes more people to lose their lives than if this "right" was revoked. Talking freedom is all well and good, but I'd prefer to have the freedom to walk down the street without wondering if someone's rightfully owned handgun is going to be pushed in my face than the freedom to own such a gun. Whether or not children come into it is a moot point. I do think it's fair enough that some shooting is done as a sport though, and that kids under 18 should be allowed to partake in this- just so long as the conditions are very closely supervised. It's just as valid as archery as a sport. However, I don't think they should be allowed to take their guns home with them.

Having said that though, Australia, and more specifically New South Wales, takes restrictions on arms too far. I work at a checkout and I am not allowed to sell even a BUTTER KNIFE to someone under the age of 16 unless said knife is plastic. Pencils are more dangerous than butter knives. Forks are more dangerous, but I'm allowed to sell them to anyone.

Gulag Schools
I'm afraid I've never heard of these before.

[This message has been edited by Beppie (edited 01-23-2001).]


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Beppie
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And one that I missed

Respect in the Media
The media should have a certain amount of respect for everyone, no matter what their age, although this goes into a grey area when it becomes a censorship issue. What they should do in my opinion and what should be enforced are different things.


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Sympathys_Sin
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I dont want a 4 year old voting, yo. I think, while we cant be sure whos mature enough to do what, we've made a society based on judging people by their ages. and its sort of natural. most 13 year olds think like 13 year olds, most 16 year olds think like 16 year olds.... if you are against age restrictions, you should be against any normal sort of schooling, because what grade would you start someone off at if you didnt consider their age? remember, we started off this country with views like these. hands off government, no child labor laws, everybody do what they want... we changed cuz it didnt work. hey i learned that in school... which i probably would have dropped out of about 6 years ago if someone didnt make me go...
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Eclipse
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I've been wanting to reply to this since it was posted, but I've got much too much to say! (actually, I wrote a long reply and then my computer crashed...)

Voting: I think it could work. The Association for Children's Suffrage's FAQ (http://www.brown.edu/Students/Association_for_Childrens_Suffrage/faq.html) is one of the more well-thought-out arguments that I've seen in favor of voting without age restriction. I certainly don't think there's any reason to fear it. Unlike changing a lot of other laws, it seems unlikely to do much harm... might as well at least try it. Personally, I'm in favor of just about anything that will get more people to vote. I'm also in favor of same day registration and the Condorcet election method (see http://electionmethods.org). This is a democracy. Everyone's voice should be heard, as clearly as possible, as fairly and evenly as possible, and I don't think that's how it's currently set up.

Believe me, being a first-time, 18-year-old liberal Florida voter last November was just heartbreaking. I'd never been interested in politics before (ever since I was 8 or so, I thought it was deeply unfair that I couldn't vote, and crankily refused to pay much attention to the process...I said I'd learn about politics when I could be more involved in them. In retrospect, yes, this was a silly position, and last summer/fall, I had a lot of catching up to do... but you know what? I did it, and I did a good job.). Bush and Gore both came to give rallys within walking distance of campus, and I even heard Nader talk in the next city up. I spent 7 hours with three TVs and about two hundred college peers (and professors, and their families, and so on) on election night. As we all know now, it still wasn't over when I went to bed.

So that's where I'm coming from there.


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Eclipse
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Free speech... I definitely do not think that movie (video games/record/etc) ratings should be legally binding. I know parents who've tried awfully hard to get permission for their kids to see particular movies in theaters, and you just can't do it, and it's frankly quite silly. If the parents can't override age-based ratings then it's censorship, pure and simple, and that's not acceptable in a democracy. I do think there should be ratings, at least in as much as consumers want them. People have a right to know about content in consumer goods that some people would find objectionable. Genetically modified organisms in food products are probably the best case of this NOT happening. I couldn't be more furious about that... we have a right to know what we're eating! Ah, but I digress.

Moving on to education: If the compulsory schooling laws were revoked, I would be dancing in the streets. It's a goal I would (and will) work towards with no little devotion. I certainly don't think it can or should be done abruptly or thoughtlessly, but I do think that it's a harmful and unnecessary and vastly powerful restriction on personal freedom and family integrity. I strongly feel that the educational system in the united states cannot be fixed. I think it simply has to go, and that would be a good first step. (I do think there should be available educational institutions, but I envision them as something quite different than what currently exists).

I think leaving school (when I was 10) was the best decision my parents and I ever made. It's a little known fact that when compulsory school attendance was first introduced in new england, it was resisted, sometimes with guns, by over 90% of the population. It was only enforced when children were marched to school under armed guard. I might also add that among native speakers of English, literacy levels since the widespread institution of compulsory public schooling have never reached the levels that they were at previously.

It is a wonderful thing that homeschooling is at last legal in all 50 of the united states and many other countries, and while this is a "solution" only for a fortunate minority, I hope that we may pave the way to something better. I guarantee that my children will never set foot in an "educational institution" unless they sincerely desire to.

I implore all of you to read about the history of & current state of our schooling system. John Taylor Gatto's provacative writings are a great place to start. http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Gatto.html Start with the article on history http://www.choiceineducation.co.uk/gatto/gatto5.html

As for child labor: there is no reason to repeal child labor laws just because one repealed compulsory schooling laws. I simply don't see evidence for that argument.


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KittenGoddess
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For the most part, I don't really have a problem with age-restrictive laws. In many ways, I think they protect children. Giving all children the vote would essentially be like giving parents extra votes because most children aren't informed enough to make those kinds of decisions. Sixteen is definately a good age to limit driving at, younger kids just don't have the coordination and the split-second decision making that adults or older teens have. As far as drinking goes, I wouldn't have a problem with lowering the age if we Americans would learn the meaning of the term "moderation". But since I doubt that's going to happen, I think the law is fine the way it is. Corporal punishment, once again in moderation, is ok...but beating your kids is definately not. And I don't like the idea of corporal punishment in schools at all, I wouldn't mind seeing that gone. I don't like curfew laws at all, so those could go too. School is good...and I forget what else I was going to say! Ugh, it's been a long day!

~KittenGoddess

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"You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love; the running across fields into your lover's arms can only come later when you're sure they won't laugh if you trip."
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Eclipse
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Economics: I think the age limits on credit cards and checking accounts could at least be loosened up a LITTLE bit. I mean, you can work when you're 14, but most banks won't even let you get a joint checking account until you're 18? Not very practical. I was 17 when I came to college, and I *needed* a checking account here so that I could get my scholarship checks, so that I could... go to college! I called four banks to ask if I could open a JOINT checking account with my MOM, who has excellent credit/financial records, and it was against company policy to give an under 18 year old any kind of checking account at all but one. Just a little inconvenient. What would I have done if that fourth bank didn't have branches in my city?

Here it's also illegal to buy alcohol when you're with a minor, which means if my boyfriend (age 21) and I (age 19) are out at a grocery store and he wants a bottle of wine or something, I can't stand next to him in the check-out line (if I do, he can't buy the wine, period). What a bunch of poppycock. I don't drink alcohol at all anymore (I have twice before, in very small groups of very close friends), and I think it's a dumb thing to do, but the age restriction laws are pointless and ineffective. Kids should have a chance to learn to drink responsibly, and be able to ask for help when they need it without having to be afraid of the legal repercussions. For the record, I'm in favor of legalization across the board too. I don't use many drugs myself though (this includes things like caffeine and acetominophen...)

Statutory rape laws are pretty creepy. They should at least have another name for it than "rape." There's a very clear difference between consenting sexual relations between youths of slight difference in age and rape. Of course, working on that would be a bit much to ask for, considering that same-sex sexual relations are still illegal across the board in many states.

ASFAR has a link to a really cool page that lists legal ages of consent. http://www.ageofconsent.com/ You should link to it somewhere on the Scarleteen page, Miz S!

Okay, I'm going to stop now. I guess I've established myself as a young radical.


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Lin
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A world with no age-restrictive laws would be my dream world when I was 14. When I couldn't buy alcohol, cigarettes and go clubbing.

But now that I am 18, I realise that the laws are there for a reason. As KittenGoddess said, they are there to protect us teenagers even though we might not feel that way at that point of time.

I'm in consent with most of the age restrictive laws here in Singapore. I think they are fairly reasonable and make sense. After all, I wouldn't want my 12 year old brother buying cigarettes and drinking beer.

One thing that does irk me is that we can ony watch R(A) movies when we are 21. I feel that Singapore should follow the American system where you guys have PG 13 and stuff. It makes much more sense. But I'll be turning 21 in 2 years so I'm not grumbling as much now. All this hypocrisy. Sigh.


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Heather
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Just as an FYI, these laws do have a history.

Many of them were put in place do that 8-year-olds did not end up in the workforce or as child protitutes, something which was VERY common before they existed, and which happened through the doing of their parents.

Same goes with compulsory ed: I think homeschooling can be great for some kids, but the complusory ed laws don't override that. What they DO override is allowing kids to have NO education whatsoever, or pulling them out early so that they can till the family fields or what have you.

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Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

"If you're a bird, be an early early bird --
But if you're a worm, sleep late." - Shel Silverstein


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Sympathys_Sin
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censorship sucks. the government wasnt put in place to make sure some poor dumb kid isnt emotionally damaged when he watches Halloween 5, its put there to make sure that we are free people. basically... the law isnt protection children from themselves, its there to protect children from parents. Child Labor laws, required schooling, it was so parents couldnt say "we need you!! go work in the coal mines and lets pray to god you dont get your head blown off before we get your paycheck!" Drinking laws... well... pff, i still cant believe america had prohibition, thats the saddest thought in the world!
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Eclipse
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How many "family farms" are there? As a 17 year old, I wasn't even able to get a job behind the counter at a mall bookstore. A lot of businesses are awfully good at keeping under 18s and under 16s from getting work there. What about the unscrupulous and under-the-counter? Maybe it would be better to put forth more effort towards monitoring and regulating than into a system that is not designed specifically to address those problems! Is compulsory *schooling* supposed to be about education, or is it supposed to be about something else? If it's supposed to be about education, then why is it designed the way it is?

The legality of homeschooling in the US generally dates only to the 80s. It still needs an avid defence, and I would be surprised if this occured without the support of the conservative christian right... strange bedfellows for me and my leftist friends.

How many people go through the required amount of compulsory education and remain illiterate? (Many of these are kids who didn't learn to read in 1st or 2nd grade and were therefore labeled "learning disabled" and put in special programs where they never end up learning to read. This was (still is?) an especially big issue in California. My little brother learned to read at the age of 9, and guess what? He's fine!)


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Eclipse
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Anyone who's interested in my perspective on schooling/homeschoolin should start with David Guterson's "Family Matters" (yes, the same author who wrote "Snow Falling on Cedars." Also a teacher). If you want more radial education authors, there is of course John Taylor Gatto, John Holt (father of the modern homeschooling movement, also a teacher. look for his later works), Ivan Illich, George B. Leonard. So long as you're reading that stuff, you might as well look into A. S. Neil and his Summerhill too. For information on unschooling, start with Grace Llewellyn's "The Teenage Liberation Handbook," "Real Lives," "Freedom Challenge," and anything else she ever writes or edits.
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Heather
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Eclipse, I really appreciate your perspectives here (and Holt and Neill are so wonderful -- every educator should read them).

How about another aspect: sex. Should a 40-year-old man be allowed to legally be sexually involved with a 4-year-old if that 4-year-old says yes?

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Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

"If you're a bird, be an early early bird --
But if you're a worm, sleep late." - Shel Silverstein


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Heather
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(and I'm not seeing where censorship fits into this, but maybe I'm tired.)
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Lin
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That is exactly why age restrictive laws are there in the first place. We cannot take for granted that all 10 year olds understand sex, effects of alcohol and the dangers of drugs. We just can't.

So a 4 year old should be protected from having to say yes when a 40 yr old asks her for sex. DOes she know what sex is? Maybe. But she might be 1 out of 50. If there were no laws, what happens to the other 49 kids? And who are we likely to believe? A 4 year old kid or a 40 year old government official, teacher, entrepreneur, social worker etc.

Someone has to protect these kids. Not all 14 year olds are as developed physically, emotionally, mentally whatever as you. A limit has to be set somewhere so don't just look at the laws from your perspective or from the perspective of your group of friends.

I used to think that the censorship laws were so dumb. Why? Coz I was lookingat it from my perspective. I knew what sex was. I am doing it for crying out loud but what about those who haven't. Who feel that sex is dirty, unclean. Those who feel the urge to go out and try it coz Sharon Stone does it so well on TV? We always have to think "what if".

Okay I'm stopping now. I'm starting to ramble.


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Eclipse
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Lin - You thought age age restriction (or 'censorship') media laws were dumb because you knew what sex was...but what about people that didn't? Well, what if information about sex was accessible, and less age restricted? "Kids" want to have sex like Sharon Stone or think that sex is dirty and awful partly because they don't have access to better sources of information... because sex is, culturally when not legally, an age restricted subject (presumably moreso in Singapore!). Would revoking age-restrictive laws or attitudes spread better understanding of sex? Not necessarily... there have to at least be good information and good attitudes to have access to. Can that be done? Well, if we didn't think so, I guess we wouldn't be *here*
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Eclipse
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As for the 40 year old man and the 4 year old of unspecified gender, no, I don't think that should be legal. In fact, the original ASFAR text is

"ASFAR supports the elimination of all age of consent laws ... ASFAR also supports initiatives to clarify the legal definition of rape to distinguish between informed and uninformed consent, where uninformed consent must be established in a court of law and not on the arbitrary basis of age."

Perhaps physical sexual maturity should be *one* of the limitations on legal sexual relations... it's certainly a little bit easier to try and figure out than "informed" or "understanding." People who have reached physical sexual maturity can not have sexual relations with those who have not. Does that mean that a 40 year old could have sex with a 12 year old if s/he said yes? Not necessarily, but it does seem like a reasonable *minimal* starting place.


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Eclipse
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( I think parents should read Holt too. Neill was kinda steeped in Freudian psychology, but entertaining. I want to read that series of stories he wrote back when he was teaching, the Dominie series, but I think it's long out of print.)
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Lin
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Okie you lost me there eclipse.

I'm not sure what you are getting at with my argument but I believe that yes, there should be easier access to better sources of information when it comes to sex and violence. And I firmly believe that education plays a very important role in this. And the way sex ed is going on in Singapore, that doesn't seem very likely.

So I'm abit lost but I absolutely agree with what you brought up.


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Eclipse
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Lin - All I was saying was that the age-restrictive laws on sexual content exist for many of the same reasons that lack of accesible information about sex (for kids, and to some extent, for adults) does NOT.
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Lin
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Gotcha dearie.
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