With Callous Indifference, the Plight of our Children
We have a problem, a grave problem. It is a crisis that concerns the past, present and the future; a trouble that belongs to you, me and them; a challenge that is ours, yours and theirs. It is a conundrum that demands a comprehensive strategy, an immediate yet meaningful solution. It is a predicament that should hold the highest priority yet awaits our attention, eclipsed by the meaningless absurdity of daily nonsense.
And with each passing moment this hindrance grows worse; progressively so, its detriments compounding daily. This difficulty, this woe is critical to our society for it involves the well-being of our children, the health and viability of our families and the guidance and direction of our youth.
In 1989, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a report entitled “A Partial Listing of Problems Facing American Children, Youth and Families.” The list is chilling and includes such serious socioeconomic problems as: 1) adolescent pregnancy, 2) substance abuse, 3) child abuse and neglect, 4) homelessness, 5) mental health problems, 6) educational/employment deficits, 7) the lack of child care, 8) the absence of health care and 9) runaway youth.
And this is but a partial list. Additional yet equally disquieting issues include: 1) single parent households, 2) the breakdown of the nuclear and extended families, 3) school and community violence, 4) food insecurity, 5) obesity, 6) peer pressure and 7) negative cultural influences.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs makes clear our manifest shortcomings. The hierarchy identifies five levels of human needs, i.e., 1) physiological, 2) safety, 3) love, 4) esteem and 5) self-actualization. Pursuant to this hierarchy, we have fallen far short in addressing our children’s most basic needs.
We have failed to satisfy their physiological or physical needs for adequate food and water. We have neglected their security needs of personal safety, health, housing and employment. We have yet to provide them with families, friendships, emotional attachments, a sense of belonging and loving supportive relationships. We have not built their self-esteem, confidence, self-respect and the respect of others. And we disappoint both them and ourselves in equipping the young with a sense ethics and morality, of enhancing their intelligence, creativity and problem solving abilities and of helping them reach their highest human potential.
Our reasons for abandoning America’s youth are even worse than the problems created thereby. Unless the child or family in question is ours, we simply don’t give a damn. This callous indifference is exhibited in multiple ways.
First, as a collective, we refuse to raise our offspring. There is little question that kids need to be loved and protected. But more importantly, they must be raised. Society requires intelligent, responsible adults we know the difference between right and wrong and who voluntarily choose responsibility over hedonism; ethics over destruction.
Too many parents are little more than babies making babies. Having never grown up, they are incapable of producing responsible adults. So they abdicate their responsibility to anything or anyone who will raise the child they created. If they are lucky they turn to grandparents or other relatives. If they are unlucky they rely on the schools, the media, even prisons. They either fail to shift their parental responsibility or raise their children in a way that is antithetical to good citizenship. Or worst, they engage in the heinous practice of infanticide.
Others confuse being a parent with being a friend, thereby overindulging and/or losing the respect of their children. We understand the current debate over corporal punishment. But there invariably comes a time in every parent/child relationships when the parent has to show their offspring who is the parent and who is the child. If this requires a reasonable, proportionate physical response, then so be it.
The second factor is the change in priorities and the corresponding shift of resources from the very young to the very old. According to an on-line article by Sharon O’Brien, entitled “Senior Citizens are the Fastest Growing Population in the World” seniors wield tremendous economic and political clout.
Another on-line article, this time in the Chicago Tribune entitled “Voter’s over 65 Gain New Political Power”, echo’s this reality. Not only do seniors have time and money, they vote and do so relentlessly; religiously. This political might is further enhanced by voter disinterest, despair and lethargy. Seniors therefore profoundly influence domestic political and economic decisions.
Thirdly, no analysis of this issue is complete without discussing the dream stripping, soul crushing effect of poverty. The U. S. Census Bureau recently published the 2013, “Report on Income and Poverty in America.” The report details that in America, the poorest of the poor are children.
“The poverty rate for children under 18 in 2013 was 19.9 percent, a drop from 21.8 percent in 2012. Twenty percent (or one in five), of our children therefore live in poverty with the attendant problems of homelessness, hopelessness and despondency. By comparison, the rate of poverty for people aged 65 and over was 9.5 percent. This is a material difference of over 10 percent in the rates of poverty. The advantage is furthered by senior welfare otherwise known as rebates, incentives, subsidies, discounts and favorable tax treatment.
We do not suggest that the elderly are undeserving of our time and attention. They clearly are. Nor do we advocate generational strife. Nevertheless, we cannot can long survive much less prosper if our children are imperiled. As the Health and Human Services report so clearly demonstrates, the problems affecting children and families not only threaten their lives, but endangers the nation’s productivity and causes us severe social harm. In order to address this crisis, Blackacre suggest the following:
Recommendation # 1: That we offer parenting classes to teenage parents in our public junior and senior high schools. Churches and other community based institutions would do well to assist in this effort.
Recommendation # 2: That based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we develop and implement programs and strategies that address our children’s physiological, safety, belonging and self esteem needs. We again call on others to join the cause.
Recommendation # 3: That we implement a matching fund mandate at the local, state and federal levels. The mandate would require that for every dollar budgeted and spent on prisons and the pentagon, a dollar must be allocated and spent on schools, education and early childhood development. The requirement alone would substantially move us towards a child-centric society.
In conclusion, many of our children are lost and alone, threatened and abused. They are challenged by life long unemployment, jobs with no retirement plans or employee benefits, climate change, water shortages, u-tube humiliations, AK-47’s and drive-by shootings that the older generations never faced much less contemplated.
Regardless of one’s moral persuasions, we can no longer allow them to flounder and fail. No matter our politically leanings we must not consider them to be someone else’s problem; the responsibility of some other. The children are our future irrespective of their lineage. As such we can ill afford to treat them with the benign neglect of our callous indifference.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum