“History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children….”

— Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

The Trump Administration is promoting full opening of schools, backed by Betsy Devos, Secretary of Education. This to help parents get back to work and the economy rolling again, and to get children back into the classroom with teachers. These actions might be good ones without a pandemic in which children ARE at risk and can bring the virus home. It is another blinders-on recommendation from an inept and reckless Republican administration. (Note: Many Republicans are currently distancing themselves from a Toxic Whitehouse.)

I wish to reflect on Nelson Mandela’s quote which is pertinent to the present moment as leaders suggest using children as political vectors.

A new academic book, The Ecology of Childhood, by Barbara Bennett Woodhouse, was published early this year and then swiftly subsumed into the background as the Covid-19 Pandemic broke into our awareness. Yet it is a book relevant to the present moment. This I cannot emphasize enough.

Woodhouse is L.Q.C. Lamar Professor of Law at Emory University and director of the Emory Child Rights Project. She has devoted her career in law to defending the rights of children while studying the systems that impact children’s worlds. Read a biography.

The true measure of a just and sustainable society is whether it meets the basic needs of children and whether its policies foster environments in which children, young people, and families can flourish. ~ The Ecology of Childhood

Using this as a basic premise, Woodhouse presents a compelling argument for reexamining the values which inform our social contract with each other. The book analyzes the macrosystems that impact a child’s microsystem. These are: globalization, unrestricted capitalism, technological change, rising inequality, mass migration, racial conflict, and human-made climate change.

Do our policies foster environments in which children, young people, and families can flourish? If we the people create the macrosystems (which Woodhouse writes are comprised of the “ideas, values, prejudices, and powers that create hierarchies that can damage children”), then we the people can reform and reshape those macrosystems.

Listen to an NPR program rethinking the values that underlie the economy. Here are TED Talks with innovative ideas. Discussion is about stakeholder capitalism rather than shareholder capitalism.

Related are TED Talks by innovators thinking about how to reform the economy to reflect valuing people. See the TED Talk on this page and go to another one by Kate Ravorth here.

I believe that the current Black Lives Matter movement, which is now a rising wave of aligned movements joined in awareness that this IS the moment for such reform, then we can gain focus from Woodhouse’s approach which is to work with children’s rights in mind.

What should be our Covid-19 policies toward the health and welfare of children and families? I suggest that using the GDP as the prime measure of how we answer that question IS an example of a policy that needs reform.

The lack of proper healthcare, inadequate income, missing maternity and sick leave policies for every person and worker, racial inequalities, and climate change — these are harmful outcomes of errant policies that are currently under scrutiny in the piercing spotlight of the pandemic.

Read a review of The Ecology of Childhood.

Buy the book for your legislator, candidate, or changemaker.

Visionaries of the future