Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Village that Razes its Children?

Does anyone really believe that
"no child is left behind" in America?
Has anyone ever actually visited
that mythical "village" that is raising our children?

Can't help wondering...what you're wondering about?

I wonder if we are fast becoming the village that razes its children. Every day children are abused and neglected by a society that fights against their best interests while piously claiming to do otherwise. Society spouts slogans like No Child Left Behind at the same time it makes choices that deprive millions of children of even the most basic educational tools such as books, environments in which learning is possible, and teachers capable of facilitating learning experiences. We have children taking computer classes in schools that have no computers. We have schools that have inadequate plumbing so children lack access to working water fountains, or functioning toilettes, where children bring blankets to school to keep warm because budget cuts force abnormally lowered classroom temperatures. We have teachers assigned to teach subjects for which they have no training, while others have such poor English skills or heavy accents that students can't understand what is said.

We know that a child without reading skills will fall behind by 4th grade with no chance to ever fully recover from the loss. And yet from age 9 on children's reading skills decline along with any interest in reading. When California actually uses 4th grade reading levels to project the need for future jail capacity, society pays the price along with the individuals it abused and neglected as children by failing to educate them.

Recent NEA research, reported in To Read or Not to Read: A National Consequence, shows that reading transforms lives regardless of their "social circumstances," increases the chances of "academic and economic success" and appears to "awaken a person's social and civic sense." According to the report, reading is essential to developing the productive, active adults and healthy communities essential to a "prosperous, free society." The end result is a nation that fails as it failed its children.

Society also abuses children by neglecting their health and safety needs. Battling against SCHIP isn't the only example. Every night, 12 million children go to bed hungry. Too often the excuse for the neglect and abuse of the nation's children is a lack of money. But one issue makes clear how hollow that claim is. Remember nine years ago when there was a lot of talk, with politicians and corporations fluffing each other's feathers, everyone congratulating themselves about the importance of protecting children from the known dangers of smoking and what they were going to do? Remember how some of the tobacco settlement money would be used to educate children? Remember all the promises?

A recent report, A Broken Promise to Our Children: The 1998 State Tobacco Settlement Nine Years Later, shows once again how willing we are to ignore child abuse and neglect at any level of society. It also proves once again that the claim of absence of money as a reason for not stopping the abuse and neglect of children is nothing more than a cheap excuse. In this case the money is there. The states won't spend it as intended…to protect children.

According to this report:
"Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, claiming more lives every year – more than 400,000 – than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, illegal drugs and fires combined. Tobacco use costs the nation nearly $100 billion a year in health care bills. Every day, more than 1,000 kids become new regular smokers and another 1,200 Americans die because of tobacco use."

So in essence, every day while primary caretakers kill 4 or 5 children, society participates in the future killing of another 1000 kids. States spend only 3% (not the minimum 6.4% recommended by the CDC) of the $24.9 billion tobacco money they receive on "prevention and cessation" programs that are proven to work.

This year, as the tobacco industry spends $13.4 billion to market tobacco, the states will spend only $717.2 million of the tobacco settlement money to prevent smoking. More children will decline in reading skills, go to bed hungry, die for lack of health care. Anything wrong with that?

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee


Anonymous said...

Given your affinity for Andrew Vachss' work, I thought this might be worth sharing: Oprah's 1993 interview of Andrew Vachss has been uploaded to YouTube. If you missed it the first time around, you can watch it now at

Anonymous said...

Given your affinity for Andrew Vachss' work, I thought this might be worth sharing: Oprah's 1993 interview of Andrew Vachss has been uploaded to YouTube. If you missed it the first time around, you can watch it now at