“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa
When I read the quotation above, I think perhaps we no longer value our children in the United States.
If you think that is a radical statement, consider the following:
- Child Poverty – 25% of children in the US are living in poverty
On 3/6/2011, CBS’ 60 Minutes aired a story about homeless children in Florida. In that show, they reported that poverty among children is expected to reach 25% this year.
Let me say that again. In this country, 25% of our children will soon be living in poverty.
1 in every 4 children.
That is, by the way, the national average. In some states, it’s already far greater. Here’s a link – look for yourself. http://www.eddataexpress.ed.gov/
If you don’t watch 60 Minutes, you may not have heard this.
Why isn’t this NEWS? Every night? Why are the major networks interviewing the likes of Charlie Sheen when 1 in 4 children in this country is living in poverty?
Why? Because Charlie Sheen interviews draw a larger audience – and that makes money for the corporations that own our mass media.
Poverty is depressing – and apparently it isn’t compelling enough to capture sufficient viewership to make airing stories about it profitable to network or cable news divisions.
You don’t SUDDENLY have 25% of the population of children enter poverty. The fact that this is being ignored by the fourth estate makes a statement.
Here’s another indicator that our values are questionable:
- Health Care – Pediatricians among the 5 lowest paid physicians by specialty
About two years ago, my son was about to graduate from college and he expressed an interest in becoming a physician’s assistant. I decided to do some research for him and I discovered that among all medical specialties, pediatrics pays among the least.
What pays the most? PLASTIC SURGERY!
Apparently, we care more about how we look than the health our children.
I am not quite sure why I am surprised by this. After all, we live in a country, where we have elevated such banalities as a cup of coffee and a bottle of water to the level of status symbols!
So it stands to reason that with each passing year, medical school students seem less interested in specializing in pediatrics. It won’t pay them enough to pay back the cost of all their student loans.
But it is not just the field of medicine that reflects the low regard in which we hold our children – the future leaders of this country.
- Education – The Assault on Public School Teachers
There is an assault on public education in this country, and it is aimed at public school teachers. The purveyors of the latest “magic bullet” to fix the current state of public education are demonizing teachers, measuring them according to the results of incessant, meaningless student tests, and threatening to keep only the teachers who “measure up”.
I don’t believe we have ever treated teachers in this country with the respect that they deserve. Teachers have the second most challenging job in the world, after parents. I am 58 years old and I cannot recall a time in my life when the teaching profession was respected as highly as doctor, lawyer, engineer or architect.
We certainly don’t treat them with the esteem they are getting in Finland! http://hechingerreport.org/content/an-interview-with-henna-virkkunen-finlands-minister-of-education_5458/
Teachers are influential and can be inspirational. The fact that they are currently being vilified should be a wake up call to every citizen in this country who sends their children to public school and every young person who aspires to teach.
And while teachers are under attack in public schools, so are our kids:
- Marketing and Advertising – Turning Our Children Into Consumers
Our children begin to be trained to be consumers almost from the time they are born. And while television used to be the source of commercialism most parents were concerned with, kids are now targeted through multiple channels: television, internet, movies, toys, and even in our schools:
Consider the following:
- A full week of teaching time is lost to Channel One every year; one day per year is lost just to the ads.
- Companies spend about $17 billion annually marketing to children, up from the $100 million spent in 1983.
- Until the age of about 8, children do not understand advertising’s persuasive intent and very young children can’t distinguish between commercials and program content.
- Children ages 2-11 see more than 25,000 advertisements a year on TV alone.
These examples came from Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood’s web site. Please visit and learn more. (http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/index.html)
If none of this is sufficient for you begin to question whether or not we value our children as much as we believe, perhaps this will convince you:
- The Environment – House Passes HR#1 – Cuts Half Percent from Budget, Undoes all Environmental Progress Made in the Past 30 Years
In February, the House passed HR#1 – Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011.
This bill proposed cuts deep into Head Start, WIC and programs for Community Health Centers and public housing. As many as 5 million children would be affected by these cuts alone. That will surely contribute to more children sliding into poverty nationally.
Additional cuts would make it nearly impossible for the EPA to function and would dismantle the Clean Air Act. It takes aim at other agencies responsible for environmental and food safety
According to the NRDC, the Clean Air Act has yielded $30 in health benefits for every $1 in expenses. Seems like a good return to me. But the people paying the $1 apparently don’t see it that way. Hopefully, none of their children have asthma, or have ever spent time in a hospital because of e coli or salmonella.
So, back to the question of whether or not we value our children:
- Child Poverty – 1 in 4 children living in poverty, cuts in vital social programs
- Health Care – Pediatricians among the 5 lowest paid medical specialties
- Education – Public schools and teachers under attack across the country
- Marketing and Advertising – The Commercialization of Childhood
- The Environment – Environmental Safety Regulations and Agencies under attack
Most of these issues have become political – and as such, ideologues on both sides spend too much time fighting and not enough doing the right thing. Where our children are concerned, we need to get the politics out and take action in the best interest of our kids.
If you don’t like what is happening to the world you live in – the one your children and grandchildren will inherit – then it is time for you to do something about it. It is time to show our children that we really do value them.
Don’t believe those who say there is nothing you can do. They are wrong. You have a voice – start using it. Here’s how:
Stop supporting low standards in popular culture. Don’t buy or read People Magazine or any of those other gossip rags. Don’t watch Charlie Sheen on television or follow him on Twitter! Do not waste another one of your brain cells on the stupid gossip that is passed off as “entertainment” by the mass media. They are only selling it because you’re buying it – raise your standards! Be a better example to your kids!
Visit a neo-natal intensive care unit in a local hospital. Count your blessings. Then, the next time you take your child to the pediatrician, thank your doctor for helping to keep your child healthy. I know you appreciate your medical professionals – let them know it!
If you are upset at the assault on your child’s public education, take a stand. Go to your school board’s public meetings and make your voice heard. Maintain your composure but make sure to let the people who are spending your hard-earned tax dollars know you expect better results when they spend your money.
Support your public school teachers. Go to Back-to-School night and make sure to meet the people teaching your children. I know from personal experience that teachers value engaged parents more than anything. Show your kids you care – thank a teacher!
When your local, state and federal politicians propose actions on issues, let them know whether you support or oppose them – especially if you oppose them. These days, it could not be easier to make your voice heard with your elected officials – their phone numbers and email addresses are readily available and should be handy at all times.
Put them in your cell phone! Follow them on Twitter and kick Kim Kardashian to the curb.
Demonstrate to your children that we all have a voice and we can use it! Show them that you care about their health, education, and living standards.
Because if you don’t speak up when you have the chance – if you don’t value the freedom you’ve been given enough to use it on a regular basis – that will be the next thing our children lose – their freedom.
That is not a legacy I am willing to leave to mine.
“If our American way of life fails the child, it fails us all.” Pearl S. Buck