• MOTHER l WRITER | EDUCATOR | ARTIST | MAKER 

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    I’ve been completely speechless the last few days. Anyone who knows me could tell you this is not a usual occurrence for me. I’m usually full of thoughts and opinions I’m willing and able to share. The reason I’ve been speechless is that I am the sort of person who feels everything deeply. Every emotion I have floods my entire body and I experience them wholly. My son is this way too, it’s one of the ways we are very connected. Learning to navigate this kind of being is complex in a world that only handles emotion on a movie screen. I channel my feelings into writing and art; he will have to find his own vessels to pour himself into. All I can do is model and mentor, but the last few days have been hard. I am full of rage and heartbreak because more children have died and it could have been prevented. Talking heads argue for gun control and mental health programs and why the systems in place failed. What they never talk about is the the foundation of our problem, the real reason we are here in this place of terror and dysfunction. It is the absolute disregard we have for the rights of children.

    In 1989, the United Nations held a Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which a declaration was made and ratified (extending and expanding on two previous declarations in 1924 and 1959) by a majority of the UN membership, including the United States.* In the articles, a promise is laid out to protect the rights and best interest of children. I like it because it was an intentional effort to consider and defend children as they deserve. I’ve included a kid-friendly version at the bottom of this page.  In particular, Article 6 recognizes that “every child has the inherent right to life and shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.” In Article 19, there is an agreement to “take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.” Most people are not aware of this declaration, and we certainly are not keeping our promise as a country to uphold these rights.

    How we treat children is directly related to creating the kind of world we all want to live in. They are our future, yes, but they are people right now. Whole, individual people with ideas, emotions, and rights.They are ours to care for and to hold the space for, to be nurtured and mentored. We do not own them and their well being should be the highest priority of our society, not because we signed an agreement, but because we truly, deeply agree and know that they are. One of the most prominent ways we show our dedication to the rights of children is through how we create the environment in which they spend most of their childhood, and most of childhood is spent in the educational system.

    I am a firm believer in educational choice and the power of education, but our school system does not support the natural development of children and that infringes on the rights we have promised them. It supports conformity and obedience. It judges merit by means that have little to do with intelligence and meaningful skill. It utilizes discipline and medication to whittle down natural behavior, marginalizes whole communities and cultures, and offers no way of restitution or dialogue. I’m not going to argue whether one school is trying to do things differently or one teacher is making a difference. Of course they are. There are always devoted educators who find a way to subvert the paradigm when they see change is needed. But this is the basis for our system and it hasn’t changed in almost two centuries.

    Regardless of attempted reforms, we have continued to see rising violence and suicide rates. Kids are stressed out because this is not how they learn or socialize naturally and they are under enormous pressure to cater to the whims of adults. This dysfunction has produced layers of adults who are desensitized and unaware of their own value. On top of this, we have a culture that exploits children, discusses parenting as if it were an Olympic sport, and entertains itself with articles about whether children should be tolerated on planes or in restaurants. Now we have children regularly shooting other children in school, because they can access weapons and because they felt they had no other option left to them. It doesn’t matter why they did it. There was not a process in place that provided shelter from their illness or a barrier to their fury.

    I was filled with rage and heartbreak this week because if seeing children gunned down any place, much less a school where they are supposed to be safe, does not make our community immediately respond with the full power of our legislative, administrative, social and educational systems, it means that we are not upholding our social and moral obligation. That we are violating the promises we made. To make matters worse, we are praising the children for standing up and making their voices heard by leading walk outs and rallies for more restrictive gun laws. They deserve every bit of that praise and I will support them unreservedly. But they shouldn’t have had to. We should have been the ones to stand up and make any sacrifice needed to ensure their safety. I feel the energy rising around this latest tragedy, and I hope it results in change, but until we willingly don our armor and go to battle for the most vulnerable in our country, we are still just using band-aids.

     

    *Edit: The US signed, but never ratified the declaration because it was never presented o the Senate for a vote. While there are various opinions on why not, the lack of attention and discussion clearly illustrates a lack of respect for children and their rights.

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