CL Response: Treatment of Children

 

1996

 

By now it should be clearer that abstract rights analysis outside of the context of real living communities in which we all live and find our meaning and happiness only obscures issues. Societies cannot thrive without careful protection of their individual members, assuring that the dignity of all is central to civil society. These rights are often best protected by creating and nurturing compassionate, caring communities in which solidarity and the network of life thrive. Nowhere is this better exemplified than with our children. 

 

In the current debates over welfare and immigration (including education, day care, medical care, and Head Start), everyone's rights seem to be paramount except those of children. The public rhetoric would lead one to believe that only adults have rights and that children have rights only derivatively from the social, economic, racial, or national rights of the parents to whom they have been fortunate or "unfortunate" to be born. How does a caring society come to portioning out the most basic needs of children (education, medical care, nutrition, early childhood development) based on the economic, social, or racial indicators of their parents? The other nations of the developed world long ago took children out of the public debate and assured them of basic life necessities irrespective of the status of their parents. France is a stunningly successful example.

 

If the fascination with the abstract rights of individuals were consistently applied, innocent children would have the first pick of society's resources. Unfortunately, the status of children, whether born or unborn, in these debates only points up the selective inconsistency with which individual rights are insisted upon. Whose rights could be so paramount that the rights of growing children, innocent by all definitions, should be sacrificed to protect them?

 

If children are seen as part and parcel of the social fabric of life that any human community needs to protect, it would be clear that the contemporary policy debates of how we will allocate our more limited social resources are being carried out with violent consequences to children. It is their nutrition that is behind the dollars being counted up. It is their medical care that is being traded away in the concern about maintaining our present system. It is the precious years of education that will never come again, especially Head Start which has been shown to be critical for early development.

 

Unfortunately, these consequences fulfill every element of our definition of violence.

Their development and necessities are being taken from them in the most critical years and can never be returned because of some abstract models of economic theory that simply do violence to life in the concrete. The consistent care for the life of the child from conception to adulthood should be one fabric of solidarity and love if we are to remain true to the title "human society".

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