What is the demand? We may call it responsibility, but a better word might be love.
In The Ethical Demand, Knud Logstrup suggests that responsibility is a term for diminished love, a ‘compromise with the demand’. He suggests that ‘people can substitute the word responsibility for the word love because they regard it as more important that love is demanded than that love is demanded.’
Is the ability to become aware of, and respond to, the demand the essence of becoming an adult? Perhaps we might go further and say that the ability to respond to the demand, rather than acting solely from experience, is what makes us human.
In common usage, the word responsibility has come to mean that one ought to respond to a demand, rather than that one has response-ability - the ability to respond.
With regards education, I prefer the etymological sense. It is not that responsibility is a consequence of relation, as suggested by Zygmunt Bauman, but that the demand is a consequence of a relation.
The liberation of responsibility from demand might help to clarify what is meant when we talk of children’s responsibilities.
Children (or anyone for that matter) may not act responsibly. They may or may not accept a relation, and/or they may or may not respond to the demand that comes with a relation. (I might tentatively include here their relation with themselves.)
But this may not be through choice. They may or may not - yet - have the ability to respond to the demand. They may not yet have learned to be responsible.
But, just as awareness is educable, so is the ability to respond to the demand that comes with the gift of life - the ability to love. Should this, then, be the primary aim of education?