We Must Protect Our Children’s Rights to Prevent So Many of Them from Being Wronged
By Allan Shedlin
Grampsy and Founder, DCG and Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F)
During a time when way too many children are being wronged, it’s long past time for adults to help them officially reassert their rights. And, besides today, there is no more appropriate time to call attention to, recognize, and honor those rights than on World Children’s Day, November 20th.
It is time to stop referring to children as the “next generation” and describing them as “at-risk” and “voiceless.” Those terms only give us a false sense that children, and the conditions we have allowed them to live and die in, are something we have time to address. There simply isn't time to waste while our children continue to suffer and die, needlessly, mostly as the result of adults' own faults and quarrels.
It is unconscionable.
We can no longer put off addressing children’s wrongs now and shifting our focus and resources to their rights as human beings. Our children are not the “next" generation, they are here now! They are the youngest generation. Children are not merely “at-risk,” they are actively in trouble by virtue of the world we live in. The world we adults have created. And children are certainly not voiceless. It's just that we aren't listening to them when they speak.
Back in the mid-1980s, while I was the founding executive director of the National Elementary School Center, I received a call from the United Nations to attend a debate about their plan to create the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). I agreed to attend, but only if I could bring a few middle-school students with me.
The UN debate took place in the General Assembly – the main room you see when proceedings are shown in the media. Article seven of the Convention's 42 proposed articles specifies a child’s right to have a name and nationality. During the debate, one of my 12-year-old students raised her hand and was recognized by the chairman. She asked, “Does it matter whether the child has a name if nobody knows what it is?”
The room went silent.
In 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention. Since then, 192 of the 193 UN member states have ratified it. According to the UN Treaty Database, there is just one hold-out: the United States of America.
Although it is a positive sign that there have been two recent cases brought by children in the US asserting their rights (Held v. Montana and Juliana v. United States), the need becomes more dire by the minute in a world in which child mortality is one of the world's largest problems. Worldwide, around 6 million children under age 15 die per year, according to Our World In Data. That's about 16,000 deaths every day. Eleven every minute.
The question of why the US has not ratified the Convention remains a critical issue that must be rectified, and will certainly be a topic I delve into for a blog post down the road. In the meantime, we urge you to help your children and youth become familiar with the Convention. Friend and Daddying blog contributor Anna Gilchrist’s new coloring book from Sandfish Press, I Know My Rights, is a wonderful place to start.
Let’s use this year’s World Day of the Child to rededicate ourselves to the world’s youth in deed, not just in word. Let’s make sure that our actions provide an unequivocal opportunity for children to be able to exclaim, “They really do care about and for us.”
Allan Shedlin has devoted his life's work to improving the odds for children and families. He has three daughters, five grandchildren, as well as numerous "bonus" sons/daughters and grandchildren. Trained as an educator, Allan has alternated between classroom service, school leadership, parenting coaching, policy development, and advising at the local, state, and national levels. After eight years as an elementary school principal, Allan founded and headed the National Elementary School Center for 10 years. In the 1980s, he began writing about education and parenting for major news outlets and education trade publications, as well as appearing on radio and TV. In 2008, he was honored as a "Living Treasure" by Mothering Magazine and founded REEL Fathers in Santa Fe, NM, where he now serves as president emeritus. In 2017, he founded the DADvocacy Consulting Group. In 2018, he launched the DADDY Wishes Fund and Daddy Appleseed Fund. In 2019, he co-created and began co-facilitating the Armor Down/Daddy Up! and Mommy Up! programs. He has conducted daddying workshops in such diverse settings as Native American pueblos, veterans groups, nursery schools, penitentiaries, Head Start centers, corporate boardrooms, and various elementary schools, signifying the widespread interest in men in becoming the best possible dad. In 2022, Allan founded and co-directed the Daddying Film Festival & Forum to enable students, dads, and other indie filmmakers to use film as a vehicle to communicate the importance of fathers or father figures in each others' lives. Allan earned his elementary and high school diplomas from NYC’s Ethical Culture Schools, BA at Colgate University, MA at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and an ABD at Fordham University. But he considers his D-A-D and GRAND D-A-D the most important “degrees” of all.