A World Out of Balance – Do We Still Value Our Children?

“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

About bonniejpreston

Life is an adventure. Make every day count. Enrich the lives of those you meet along the way. Don't show up at the end with a wish list. Invest in your health - the dividends paid are priceless. Listen at least twice as much as you talk. Enjoy the journey. Namaste
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4 Responses to A World Out of Balance – Do We Still Value Our Children?

  1. WOW Bonnie. Great post! I read it early this morning and re-read it again. Where are our priorities? Our parents and grandparents made sacrifices so that we could have a better life. We must do the same. In my mind two things are key 1) Politicians have a short-term mentality (re-election) We must have a long-term strategy and start to invest in high priority areas. This takes investment. 2) Our country is already is serious debt. Whenever a recession raises its ugly head, companies are forced to find ways to operate more efficiently, and families know they must cut out any waste and trim expenses to meet household budgets. Now it’s time for politicians to do their own housecleaning. Furthermore, we must identify unnecessary bureaucracy, outdated programs, ineffective policies, and inefficient operations that build up over the years. While it would be nice to review and eliminate these excesses when times are good, it’s crucial to do so when times are less plentiful. These savings can be focused in areas that’ll make the greatest difference for our kids. Have a great weekend! Frank

    • Thank you Frank. I agree – politicians are short-term thinkers and we need long-term planners. We need to create a National Strategic Plan and break it down – the 10 Year Plan, 5 Year Plan, 1 Year Plan. Then quarterly goals, etc. We need plans for every major policy area, but most importantly for education, energy and the environment, and healthcare (whether you support Obama’s plan or not – we need something.) If we don’t find a way to do this, I don’t believe we can claim to value our kids, because we will have helped destroy their future. Times are certainly tough, but we failed to make the tough decision during the good times. At this point, I believe we no longer have a choice – we must act now! Thanks again for your comment and your support.

  2. Mahnaz Sadre says:

    Wow! You said it so eloquently and right to the point. I must say that I was appalled to see the commercial by President Obama showing a picture of his high school graduation and his inauguration stating that he couldn’t do inauguration if he didn’t have a high school graduation. This commercial was aired right after the news about the massive budget cuts and slaying of our education system: reducing the school staff including teacher, increasing the size of classroom from 20/teacher to 30/teacher, increasing the size of special ed classroom from 4 students/teacher to 12 students/teacher and this news comes out after reporting that the US education was placed at a low rank internationally. Who are we kidding. We only care about our students in words. Our schools, specially high schools are infested with drugs and drug dealers and we are reducing state funded services and social programs that could possibly help out students. I live in Collin County, every week I hear from the people who live in my county that some young person died of drug overdose. There is no reflection of that in the news. The number of childhood diseases such as asthma or allergies due to air pollution or the preservatives in our food products are increasing and nothing is done to improve the quality of our children’s lives to preserve the multi-billion-dollar companies who do not care about the future of the US or the future of our children. I will share this with everyone that I know. I admire you for having the courage to say what a lot of us think. I appreciate the time and energy that you spend on gathering the material to inform us.

    • Thank you Mahnaz. Although I no longer have children in the public school system, I still feel passionate about this issue. I view the attack on teachers and public schools as part of an overall attack on the middle class in this country. My next post will be devoted to this issue. It is vitally important and we need to engage teachers and parents in order to see that the wealthy elite do not succeed in their plan to dismantle the public school system. Thanks again for your comments and support.

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