The Rise and Fall of the American Childhood

In 30 years, we’ve undone many of the most important social achievements put in place to protect and support children – Published on AlterNet, by Colin Greer, July 19, 2012.

From the 1930s to 1980, childhood in America became a cherished space for youngsters to grow in. After 1980, and with increasing furor, that space has been under assault and childhood terribly compromised. Look at what we once did and what we’re now doing.

The Rise (8 items):  

  • Child labor laws.
  • Civil rights protections for all children.
  • Full and secure employment for parents.
  • Play as a mode of learning. Early childhood as a time to invest in child development through stimulating play.
  • Contraception and the Pill allowed women choice and children to feel chosen.
  • Feminism brought fatherhood back home and encouraged men to be robust partners in parenting.
  • Protection from adult violence including corporal punishment and child abuse; the establishment of family and children’s courts, and special sentencing for minors.
  • Access to quality education on an unprecedented scale stimulated by competition with the Russians and influenced by deep psychology. The US moved toward universal inclusion from elementary through post-secondary education.

Yet once these gains were fully established in the top rungs of society, they began to shut down for the nation’s children as a whole. For 50 years, the pendulum swung toward protecting children and guaranteeing a childhood for all; then it began to swing back when less than half of the population had securely achieved these benefits. So despite the language of “going too far” in the direction of a protective, even a “nanny state,” we have never in fact gone far enough for the least privileged of us.

The Fall (9 items): … //

… In describing both the rise and fall of American childhood, I’ve quoted no data for two reasons. One, it is all out there. It’s in the press and in the professional literature for all to find. Two, the gathering of data seems to make no difference to public behavior and public policy.

Perhaps it’s time instead for each of us to imagine just one child, one who looks like a child you know and love. Each of these children is the bearer of the accumulated loss summarized in the Rise and Fall. (full text).

Links:

The New Misogyny: What It Means for Teachers and Classrooms, on AlterNet, by The Editors of Rethinking Schools, July 23, 2012: The vilification of K-12 teachers is part and parcel of the growing misogyny we are witnessing in today’s United States …

Chicago Teachers’ Fight Could Revitalize the Labor Movement Globally, on AlterNet, by Richard Seymour, July 21, 2012: If the fight to halt school budget cuts in Obama’s Democratic heartland succeeds it would be a huge boost for unions …

200 Polizisten gegen 100.000 Gangmitglieder – in Chicago wütet der Bandenkrieg, auf KOPP online, von J. D. Heyes, 27. Juli 2012.

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