When Does Life Begin

Editor wonders wether sixth graders are people


Lyle Griggs, Editor

In my Senior Philosophy and Ethics class, we are debating a complex and thorny question: at what point does personhood begin, and how might that affect our legal and ethical thinking about life? Due to metaphysical and scientific disagreement, we’ve come no closer to a clear conclusion than we were at the beginning of the unit. So when writing this editorial, I set out to answer the question: at what point does personhood begin?

My answer, informed by deep philosophical thinking and interviews with experts, is that nobody who has not reached the seventh grade can reasonably be called a person. In the next few paragraphs I’ll explain this unusual but, in my view, sound way of approaching difficult questions about humanity and personhood.

First, mere observation leads us to conclude that sixth graders (and younger children) are not aware or conscious enough that one could possibly call them people. Once, when I was patrolling the sixth grade hallway in search of social-distancing violations, I attempted to separate a dense clump of young students. One looked up at me and said, “who are you?”and then went right back to spreading disease. This is not behavior that people would display; sixth graders are clearly something else.

“Indubitably, sixth graders are not people,” says local behavioral psychologist, metaphysicist, plague doctor, spearfisherman, ski instructor, rabbit hunter, boomerangist, classical guitar virtuoso, medium, herpetologist, forklift driver and faculty member Eric Nelson. I agree with the experts on this one; personhood begins after the sixth grade.