Wednesday, July 25, 2007

We Have Completely Lost Our Minds

The "adultification" of children is now officially absurd. We expect our children to swim in a sea of sexually exploitative media that adults use for fun and profit, and then are surprised when kids act out sexually.

This morning, when I turned on the computer, one of the top stories was about thirteen-year-old boys being charged with sex crimes for slapping girls on the butt at school, and another was about a nine-year-old getting offered a credit card. In our public schools, a child who gets into a fight or "disrupts a school"(a rather broad concept that surely would've included some of the pranks we all pulled as teens), doesn't just get disciplined by the school, but, in addition, often faces charges in juvenile court. We are criminalizing typical teen behavior, applying a one-size-fits-all model and failing to empower the adults closest to the situations-parents and teachers-to apply discipline, reason and compassion.

We have simply forgotten to treat children like, well, children. In Georgia, the Genarlow Wilson case has gotten lots of attention, but the truth is, it's just the tip of the iceberg. I'm no idealist when it comes to addressing sexual offenders or disruptive or dangerous teens. At one point in my life I supervised a residential treatment program for children who had committed sexual offenses and had other significant behavior problems. Gov. Perdue would never be able to cure these children with just the right foster family. For most the intervention was too little, too late. We have dealt our children a ridiculous hand-we expect them to manage adult information and responsibilities and then suffer adult consequences. And, at the same time, we fail to provide their most basic needs, and then marvel that they behave as they do.

Check the new Kids Count data.

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