Fullest Potential? Three Approaches to Analysing the Adequacy of Children’s Living Standards for their Development

Redmond, Gerry (2011). "Fullest Potential? Three Approaches to Analysing the Adequacy of Children's Living Standards for their Development" Paper presented at the 8th annual conference of the HDCA, 6-8 September 2011, the Hague, the Netherlands.

In this paper I develop a human rights framework where I investigate meanings of ?fullest potential‘ towards which, according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), children‘s education should be directed. In short, the CRC states that children have the right to a living standard that is adequate for their development, and that their education shall be directed towards their development to their fullest potential. Unlike other approaches to the measurement of adequacy in living standards, the Capability approach is well suited to this normative goal. However, the Capabilities approach is also incomplete in this respect, since its focus on equality in capabilities implicity assumes that all children can achieve to the same absolute level of fullest potential, and therefore that policy effort should be direct towards those children with the lowest level of functioning. An alternative assumption, supported by the work of Thomas Pogge, is that what he terms ?horizontal inequality‘ in functioning is consistent children‘s achievement to their fullest potential, provided that their living standards are equalised. This suggests a policy focus on resources or living standards, rather than on capabilities or functionings. The practical implications of a policy focus on resources as opposed to outcomes are considerable. I also consider the potentially conflicting aims and duties of parents and the state with respect to children‘s development to their fullest potential. As the work of Pierre Bourdieu suggests, agency of the elite has the dual effect of expanding notions of ?fullest potential‘ for all children, but at the expense of achievement of egalitarian goals implicit in both the CRC and political rhetoric on education and human rights.
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