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.