“The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.” ~ UNICEF, Child poverty in perspective – Report card 7, 2007.
There are presently thirty members of the OECD – the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that originated in 1960. Twenty-one of those nations come under scrutiny by UNICEF in its recent report on child welfare and well-being.
Let’s not be fooled. The countries studied are some of the richest on earth and include most of Europe and the North American continent. This is not a report on the predicament of children in developing nations, it is a systematic analysis of the plight, or otherwise, of children in the developed world.
The most outstanding fact to emerge from this report is that the United States and the United Kingdom are rock bottom in the league table of countries best caring for their kids. George W Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” policy, and Tony’s Blair’s much publicized “Action for Education” and “Campaign Against Child Poverty” are proven – beyond any shadow of doubt – to be complete and utter failures.
Top of the league, sits the Netherlands, followed by Sweden and Denmark. The USA and Britain rank twentieth, and twenty-first, respectively.
Why is the Netherlands such a good place to grow up in? The report goes into lots of detail, much of it vague and requiring more time for study than the average person can spare, but the gist of the report covers subjects mentioned in the first paragraph of this article:
- Health and Safety
- Material Security
- Education and Socialization
and last, but certainly not least, “their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born”
Neither America’s pious society, nor the UK’s secular structure, are conducive to fulfilling the yardsticks necessary to producing a community capable of providing these attributes to its children. It’s no coincidence both nations are heavily involved in aggressively maintaining positions of dominance in the world. By contrast, Dutch society has never sought that kind of power, being content to develop its own social structures and leave others to their own devices. Such is also the case with the runners-up in this league table, Sweden and Denmark.
And yet, rings out the cry, Holland is such a permissive country, condoning – even promoting – prostitution and drugs. How can it be a safe place for children?
It’s a safe and secure place for children to grow up exactly for those reasons. Here’s the response [from a BBC Newsnight report] from a 16 year old Dutch girl, to exactly that criticism:
“”In this country, it’s very free, you can do anything you want. You can smoke at 16, you can buy pot in the store next to the school. You can do what you like and because it’s not illegal, it’s not that interesting for us to provoke our parents with it.”
“……..it’s not that interesting for us to provoke our parents with it.”
When kids grow up in a society where sex and drugs are either taboo subjects, or considered vaguely “evil”, and certainly illegal – in the case of sex, until society deems one old enough to do it in a mature and wedded way – the compulsion to rebel is irresistible. In societies where laws are strict and often illogical, young people will quite rightly rebel against authority; crime rises and prisons overflow. America is a prime example of a such a society – a society that doesn’t work because so many influential factions vie to impose their own moral codes, none of which are acceptable to the nation’s youth.
The UK’s attitude, though different in many ways from the American model, produces similar results.
Having sampled Dutch society, one factor obvious to the observer is that the Dutch don’t spend time advertising their “free society”. They get on with enjoying it. The US yells its freedom from the rooftops, yet in place of the substance is a huge black hole.
If we want our children to be happy, healthy and loved the manner of achieving it is simple. As a society we have to care for them, love them, and stop making them miserable. The way not to achieve that is by imposing on them outdated, narrow-minded, ideological concepts that leave them no room for self expression.
In his book, “The Prophet”, Kahlil Gibran speaks of children thus:
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward, nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.”
Perhaps American society should treat its children more in the manner of Gibran, and less that of Dobson.
If indeed “the true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children” then both America and the United Kingdom have every reason to be grossly ashamed.
For those with a bent for statistics the full UNICEF report can be accessed as a pdf. file HERE.
A breakdown of the report can be found at BBC webpages linked from HERE.
Filed under: Failing our children