Childism: Confronting Prejudice Against Children Hardcover – 3 Feb 2012
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"This brilliant, provocative book ... exposes American society's prejudice against its children-'childism'-and the harm it causes them... A clarion call for urgent action."-Publishers Weekly, Starred Review Publishers Weekly "[Childism] concludes with a clarion call for programs of parent education and abuse prevention, for expanded parenting support services, and for closer attention to children's voices... Among the book's key insights is that many behaviors that we don't think of as abuse are in fact abusive because they place parental needs above children's developmental needs."-Steven Mintz, Washington Post -- Steven Mintz Washington Post "More than a study of child abuse, [Childism] excavates the psychological foundations of destructive attitudes toward children."-Peter Monaghan, Chronicle of Higher Education -- Peter Monaghan Chronicle of Higher Education "Shattering... You'll need an open mind and a willingness to consider that, for many of us, parenting is about the parents, not the kids... Provocative."-Jesse Kornbluth, Huffington Post Blog -- Jesse Kornbluth Huffington Post Blog "By giving a name to the prejudice against children, Young-Bruehl makes it possible for us to see what is right before our eyes. It's not easy to speak about this prejudice-it comes too close to home-and yet Young-Bruehl does so in a way that is engaging, intelligent, humane, and enlightening. Read this book, and then give it to your partner, your friends, your representatives. This is something we can change."-Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice -- Carol Gilligan "Childism is an alarming analysis of the policies and behaviors that are so harmful to our children. Young-Bruehl's deeply humane insights should be required reading for policymakers and parents."-Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System -- Diane Ravitch "What a brilliant testimony as to why children's issues have taken so long to become of importance. Everyone who wants to change this, and I hope all professionals who are involved with families and children do, should read this work."--T. Berry Brazelton, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Emeritus Harvard Medical School, and Founder, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, Children's Hospital Boston -- T. Berry Brazelton "Elisabeth Young-Bruehl offers a profound and useful means by which educators, policymakers and parents can get a handle on the absence of strategy in the debate over the efficacy of public education. Childism calls for us to be more conscious in how children are treated, more thoughtful about how they are taught, and more courageous in how we lead the national discussion."-Dr. Rudy Crew, professor, University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, and former chancellor of New York City public schools -- Dr. Rudy Crew "I am often struck by how children are not treated as people, not accorded equal status as humans, neglected, underestimated, and overlooked. And how that childism goes un-thought. It is a social, historical, and psychological phenomenon that is desperately in need of redress. Elisabeth Young-Bruehl's timely and insightful Childism is a crucial step towards this goal."-Ken Corbett, author of Boyhoods: Rethinking Masculinities -- Ken Corbett "This book has helped me, like nothing else I've read, to understand why it is so hard to get the kind of help for children that all the best science of our time is telling us they need. I hope everyone reads it. As Young-Breuhl states, 'prejudice has to be recognized in order to be overcome.'"-Claudia M. Gold, Child in Mind -- Claudia M. Gold Child in Mind "A road map for according our children their basic human rights... This is a terrific book, scholarly and persuasive, able to help as a guide."-Michael D. Langan, Buffalo News -- Michael D. Langan Buffalo News "Childism is a significant achievement towards an understanding of the ways in which we, as a society, do not act in the best interests of our children."-Dominique Browning, Slowlovelife.com -- Dominique Browning Slowlovelife.com
About the Author
Elisabeth Young-Bruehl (1946-2011) was a psychoanalyst and the award-winning author of Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World, Anna Freud: A Biography, and Why Arendt Matters. She lived in Toronto.
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In essence, it's that children are property. Puppets of adults. We do with them what we want.
And what we want for children --- not you and I, maybe, but certainly America as a nation and a culture --- could not be uglier.
-- In 1977, the Supreme Court upheld corporal punishment in school. With that, Young-Buehl writes, "Schools that had been developed in the 19th century on the model of a factory were encouraged to follow a new model: the military academy or the military prison."
-- Only two countries have not ratified the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which child imprisonment is forbidden --- Somalia and the United States.
-- America incarcerates more of its children than any country in the world; half a million American children are currently in juvenile detention centers.
-- Each year 800,000 American children spend some time in foster care.
-- More children are reported for child abuse and neglect in the United States than for all the other industrialized countries combined.
-- And abuse isn't just physical violence or neglect, says Young-Bruehl. It's also over-parenting, so that the child has no authentic self. (If you've read The Drama of the Gifted Child, you know all about that.). Like the Tiger Mom: "a full-scale obsessional-narcissistic program."
How did it happen that a nation that was once a leader in protecting children now is more interested in keeping dysfunctional families together --- even when that generally produces more abuse? How is it possible that another country (Sweden, naturally) has successfully educated its citizens in child-centered parenting? Here Young-Bruehl turns away from psychology and toward politics and sociology. She argues that the movements of the 1960s --- civil rights, anti-war, feminism --- freaked some parents out, leading them to fear that their kids wouldn't take care of them in their old age. They wanted compliant children. And a series of Republican Presidents --- and Bill Clinton --- adjusted our laws to encourage that. (Consider "No Child Left Behind." That kind of testing, Young-Bruehl says, is "about failing and being tracked according to failure.")
There's a lot more --- so much more you may be overwhelmed. Indeed, unless you're an psychoanalyst or an educator, there's a lot here that's technical and arcane; you'll want a quick finger to skip pages and, sometimes, whole chapters. But, mostly, you'll need an open mind and a willingness to consider that, for many of us, parenting is about the parents, not the kids.
I mentioned this provocative book to a noted pediatrician.
"Is it possible," I asked, "that America really hates children?"
"I say it all the time," he said. "Nobody believes it."
To read "Childism" is to start to believe it.