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Children Are People Too


“Children are one third of our population
and all of our future.” — Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health -
1981


A frequent variation on the theme is, “Children are our most
important resource.” This is usually simply asserted as a given, with no
further justification or explanation. You have likely heard it so many times that
it has become little more than a cliché. It sounds right so everyone just takes
it for granted that it’s right; but are children actually “our most important
resource?” More to the point, are they a resource at all?


There are certainly a lot of resources, both natural and
manufactured. Many of them are necessary and a few are even highly valued. That
definitely leads to asking which resource is most important. The sticking point
is that children aren’t at the top of the list of important resources. Perhaps
clean air and fresh water are worthy of consideration for places in the top
five or so but not children.


Wonder what reasoning process lead to children being classified
as a resource? A resource is something used or consumed by someone else. Even
if the focus is the community or society, a resource is something available to
be used or consumed by individuals or groups within the community or society.
From that perspective, can people be resources? – At a minimum, it’s an odd
concept that was rejected in Civil War times and shouldn’t be resurrected for
children.


A person may have skills or knowledge that are available to
others. A person may provide services that others may use. A person may produce
products that others value and consume. People are individually and
collectively associated with resources as providers and consumers, either
directly or indirectly but are not, themselves, resources. It follows that,
along with not being the most important resource, children are no more a
resource than you. Children aren’t resources. They are people to the same
extent and in exactly the same way you are. To argue otherwise is to diminish,
depersonalize, and devalue children.


Start from an alternative assertion. Children are people too.
They are resource producers and consumers, not resources. As is true for you,
children have minimum resource requirements and a range of discretionary
resource interests. Call that the core resource set, understanding that the
elements of the core resource set vary from person to person.


Everyone, including children, also has rights and privileges
associated with their memberships in specific groups and communities. Those
rights and privileges are based on criteria established by those groups and
communities. Age is certainly one of the criteria. An adult likely cannot
attend the local elementary school, even though the educational services might
be within that adult’s discretionary resource interests. A sixteen-year-old
likely cannot vote in the local election, even though he or she may be better
prepared to vote than those who are permitted to vote. Even so, age is only one
of many criteria used to assign rights and privileges to individuals.


A core resource set and membership rights and privileges are
associated with each individual in the group or community. This is no less true
for children than for adults. Just as the core resource set is not the same for
all members of the community, rights and privileges are not distributed
uniformly. Some groups have rights and privileges that are configured
differently than those associated with other groups. For example, there is a
group that is permitted to vote, a group that is permitted to drive, a group
that is permitted to attend public schools, and so on. At the same time, all
community members have a right to be free from abuse and assault, sexual
exploitation, unsafe food, and a long list of other rights of community
membership.


This prompts another question. Are there core resource
requirements, rights, and privileges that are specific to children as a
distinguishable segment of the community’s members? The answer to that question
is “Yes.” Children have core resource requirements that are, for the most part,
the same as those for all members of the community. As is true for the elderly,
the disabled, and other identifiable groups within the community, children also
have core resource requirements specific to children. The fact that they do
does not itself distinguish them from other groups with special, core resource
requirements.


In addition to special, core resource requirements, children
have rights and privileges that are not identical to everyone else in the
community. For the most part, their rights and privileges are the same as those
recognized for others. In some respects, though, they have some rights and
privileges that adults do not have and are not afforded other rights and
privileges that adults do have. One could, then, define childhood by the
child-specific core resource requirements and the pattern of rights and privileges
that differentiates children and adults. Call this definition the “special
member benefits” assigned to children as members of the community.


If children are a resource, everyone should focus on protecting
and nurturing that resource for the sake of the community. If instead, children
are people too, full members of the community, everyone should focus on
assuring that each child’s core resource requirements are satisfied and each
child’s special and regular rights and privileges are respected. For example,
abuse and neglect are not merely factors that increase risk and potential
jeopardy to an important resource; and everyone’s responsibility is not simply
to minimize that jeopardy. Rather, abuse and neglect are violations of the
child’s rights and privileges and the clear responsibility is to stop the
violation and to assure that the child has full and continuous access to all
community membership benefits, special and regular, to which he or she is
entitled. Among other things, this perspective means that the violation is to
stop now, not gradually but immediately.


The challenge for the community is to stop the violation
immediately, without interfering with or jeopardizing other core resource
requirements, rights, and privileges of the child. Everyone’s responsibility is
to be sure they do the right things, with the right people, in the right way,
without inadvertently harming the child or disregarding his or her core
resource requirements, rights, and privileges in the process. The challenge is
indeed potentially daunting but no less mandatory for children than for you.





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