The Araboolies of Liberty Street
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Why is there no fun on Liberty Street? What can the kids do to protest against unfair rules?
General Pinch keeps strict order on Liberty Street by threatening the residents with the possibility of an army invasion. The people live under a shadow of fear and gloom. That is until the colorful Araboolies move in and shake things up. The children hatch a plan of revolution and bring liberty to Liberty Street.
Read aloud video by Ms. Stern with a focus on bullying
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
The Araboolies of Liberty Street raises issues that lie within the field of social and political philosophy. When determining what makes the ‘best’ society, philosophers try to decide what justifies our choice of laws and policies. One view is that laws are only justified if they serve and protect individual liberty. For example, laws that protect freedom of speech and the right to privacy would be justified under this view. In a society governed by this view, the number of laws regulating our behavior would be kept at a minimum. In stark contrast to this view is the belief that the interest of society takes precedence over individual liberty, and therefore laws are justified when they serve the community’s interest. A just law in this type of society might involve withholding information from the public so as not to cause community agitation. This type of society might have more laws than the first type.
One goal for a discussion of this story is to encourage children to think about rules and which areas of our lives they think rules should be applied. In The Araboolies of Liberty Street, General Pinch has rules for everything, which makes for a pretty unhappy populace. This is one extreme. On the other hand, what would life be like without any rules? Is there a problem with letting people live however they please?
Another philosophical issue that can be discussed is civil disobedience. When a law is considered unjust, what are appropriate actions that can be taken to effect change? Some philosophers argue that civil disobedience should be engaged in only if basic liberties are infringed upon and only after all legal avenues have been exhausted. Others argue that these criteria are much too restrictive, since among other things, anti-war and environmental protests would be restricted under this stance. Also, in a society in which the government is oppressive, like South Africa under Apartheid, there are no legal avenues that oppressed people can take to effect change. Some philosophers argue that people are only justified in breaking the law through civil disobedience in cases like this, where the government is “illiberal.” On this view, the citizens of the United States would not have the right to protest through civil disobedience, but only to effect change through legal channels.
The goal while discussing this aspect of Araboolies of Liberty Street is for the children to think about what distinguishes a fair rule from an unfair rule and what they think is the appropriate way to get an unfair rule changed. Is there only one appropriate action that can be taken, such as changing the law through legal channels? Or is the appropriate action dependent on how much harm the law causes, or who is in charge of the law-making process?
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
Everyone was terrified of the General and his army, and orders were orders: the children had to stay inside.
- Before the Araboolies move in, are the residents of Liberty Street happy living there?
- Would you like to live on Liberty Street?
- Would you be happy if there were rules that told you what to do all the time and how and when to do those things?
- Would you be happy if there were no rules?
- What would a school without rules be like?
- Why do you think there are rules in schools and communities?
- Do you think that there should be rules for such things as what side of the road we drive on? How about rules for how you decorate your bedroom? Why do you think there should be rules about some things and not about others?
- Can there ever be too many rules?
- Can there ever be not enough rules?
“When their army comes, they’ll take away the Araboolies. Well, I won’t let them! I won’t!”
- Why did Joy and the children sneak out at night and paint the houses, etc…?
- Do you agree with what they did?
- Do you think it was okay that they broke the rules?
- Do you think there is another way that the children could have gotten what they wanted?
- Can you give an example of what you think might be an unfair rule and what might be a fair rule?
- How do you think we can tell the difference between an unfair rule and a fair rule?
- If there is an unfair rule, what do you think should be done to get it changed?
- Is it ever okay to break an unfair rule?
Original questions and guidelines for philosophical discussion by BJ Ramsey. Edited June 2020 by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.
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