How a society treats its children says everything about its values.
In capitalist society, the predominant values center on the acquisition, accumulation, and display of goods. This encourages and rewards a competitive rather than a cooperative attitude, hierarchical rather than collective organizational models, and relationships build around power rather than compassion.
However, even within this dominant framework, positive values and models exist. Kindness, love, and empathy are frequently evident among us, as is the capacity to learn, work together, and make positive changes as individuals and group members.
To nurture and build upon our best inclinations, those of us concerned about the future of our children, especially the millions of those being raised in poverty, need to take time from our daily tasks to reflect on our ultimate goals, and to speak for children in the broadest possible way.
We should take every opportunity to present a strong dissenting voice to the status quo and put forward a program based on the possibility for fundamental change and the premise that the welfare of a child depends on a complex network of interconnecting relationships that extends well beyond the nuclear family.
For example, children need parents and guardians who are economically secure. This can only occur in a full employment economy where everyone receives a minimum wage of at least fifteen dollars an hour.
Children need comprehensive health care, and yet millions are excluded from vital preventive measures. This situation calls for a system of socialized medicine, with universal coverage paid from revenues generated by a steeply graduated income tax.
Young children deserve child care provided by trained teachers receiving wages and benefits in keeping with the importance of their work, and in a setting where high standards of health, safety, and developmentally appropriate practice are established and maintained.
Such a child care system would require a massive increase in public funding, achievable by progressive taxation and substantial cuts in military spending.
Child care would be available to all as as integrated component of a fully-funded and responsive public school system. Educational materials would transcend racial, ethnic, and gender prejudices.
Extended families would be encouraged and supported, so that children would receive care from adults along the entire spectrum of generations.
Each child would feel confident of his or her abilities, seeing adults in a variety of jobs and engaged in decision-making within the workplace and in society at large.
With the work-week substantially shorter, gender stereotyping would dissolve as both men and women take pleasure in fully participating in the rearing of children. Paid leaves would be available to both male and female parents to raise an infant for the first eighteen months of childhood.
This is a program of radical change that could bring a sense of well-being to all of our children. It challenges corporate power, presupposes independent, grass-roots political action, and stretches the limits of the possible. It prepares the way to a democratically structured socialist society in which every child could flourish.
Children need, want, and deserve the life experiences that nourish aspirations. Right now, for too many of them, the present is bleak, and prospects for the future bleaker. It is all too easy for us, the adults in their lives, to accept the existing circumstances as inevitable, and to justify our behavior as realistic. Yet we are always making choices, and there are alternatives. We need to pursue them.
Only by taking a hard look at the reality of life for many children in our society today will we be able to build on our strengths and move toward a new society, one that replaces capitalist values and practices with those of democratic socialism.
Susan Dorazio and Eric Chester, Glasgow members of the Clydeside Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World