Archives for the month of: April, 2014

Many of the things we need
Can wait. The child cannot.
Right now is the time
his bones are being formed, his
blood is being made, and
his senses are being developed.
To him we cannot answer
“Tomorrow.”
Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral

From the age of four onward, I spent ten years of Saturdays in the galleries of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The most mysterious and alluring space I found in the museum was a medieval spiral stairway. Ascending and descending the stone steps, I felt sure it was a passageway between magical realms. Without being conscious of it, this became my Axix Mundi, spiraling to the center, connecting me with secret wonders.
Gerald McDermott, Stone Spiral

My recollection of the first bird’s nest that I found all by myself has remained more deeply engraved in my memory than that of the first prize I won in grammar school for a Latin version.
A. Toussenel, Le monde des oiseaux, 1853

But the children of this land embrace the void
As lovers. The spores of their conjunction move
To people once human spaces, stepping numbly
Over ghosts of parenthood. The children of this land
Are robed as judges, their gaze rejects
All measures of the past. A gleam
Invades their dead eyes briefly, lacerates the air
But with one sole demand:
Who sold our youth?
Wole Soyinka, THE CHILDREN OF THIS LAND

You can make your own miniatures so easily: just use bathtub caulk, spackle, wheatena sprinkled on clear glue, broom straws, bleached chicken bones, broken jewelry, film canisters, grape stems, and above all, the oval caps from underarm deodorant.
Bebe Harrison, addressing the Chappaqua Garden Club, 2000.

Secret Spaces of Childhood
Elizabeth Goodenough, Editor
The University of Michigan Press

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childism

EXCERPTS

 

Jane Addams of Hull House was among those most aware that a prejudiced way of thinking had determined how the philanthropic child-savers of her era viewed children.  Writing in 1899, Addams examined the philanthropists’ “industrial view”.  This was the name she gave to the view that what is good for industry, and the adults running and profiting from industries, is good for everybody.  When these philanthropists pushed children into adult roles of employee, satisfying their “charitable” conscience, the development of these children was arrested.  Ultimately, their deformed development added yet another illiterate member to the community and thwarted the promise of a capable & contributing individual.  The whole society suffered.

Childist philanthropists were wealthy and influential industrialists and bankers who established educational foundations in the family name.  The Rockefeller Educational Trust, the Ford Foundation, and the Carnegie Foundation were dedicated to taking over the public school system literally, by financing it.  They created a system of schools that would turn out workers for their industries and commercial enterprises.  To this end, they also took over teacher-training programs at most of the country’s major universities.

Eventually, 19th Century American Common Schools, which began as one-room schools without age differentiation, much less tracking of abilities, turned into huge factory-like institutions directing students toward their future occupations on the basis of class, gender and race.  Children were schooled to fulfill adult needs and to fulfill particular low-level positions in adult enterprises, not to develop their potentialities and their characters.  These role-reversal children were eliminated from life opportunities, manipulated into preset roles in the workforce, and deprived of encouragement to independent thought.  Their schools practiced all types of Childism at once – eliminative, manipulative, and identity erasing, all under the rubric of “tracking”.

Americans must now reject similar policies and programs that “rescue” children by segregating them into the current equivalents of the Jane Addams era child-savers’ categories.  Good research exists showing the harmful effects of programs in which children are placed out or indentured into prison-like institutions, in which “education” means standardization and identity erasure.

Childist adults are those who do not assume their obligation or responsibility to cherish and educate society’s children. Nothing takes precedence over the obligation these children as adults will have to them. At its basis, childism is a legitimization of an adult’s or society’s failure to prioritize or make paramount the needs of children over those of adults, the needs of future adults over the needs of the present adults.  It is role reversal at the level of a principle.  We need to recognize that the narrow focus in our modern field of study known as Child Abuse and Neglect has been to the exclusion of providing for the developmental needs of children and making them participants in decisions affecting them.  This narrow focus has produced a huge distortion in the USA.  We have been relying on concepts that ultimately cannot serve the purpose of protecting our children, because children whose development is not being supported, cannot ever be protected.

 

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