Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Children - angels or devils?

It seems very much to depend on if they survive the early years. There has been a particularly disturbing case of murder by child abuse recently in the UK and everyone has rightly been upset about it. The child protection services in the relevant London Borough have been castigated and heads have rolled. Clearly, this was a terrible crime.

But what has sickened me about all this today is this report in the Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper. Baby P was, apparently, an angel ripped away from us by the malign forces of abusive adults and incompetent professionals. The paper has elicited sympathetic tributes to this effect from the British public.

Had Baby P survived, however, there is a strong chance that the gross abuse he had undergone would have resulted in severe behavioural problems which may well have been criminal And then the Sun's line has been in the past to castigate over-liberal social workers and psychologists and demand stiff penalties. Which call has been echoed by their readership. Recently Barnado's, the UK-based children's charity, published a report which revealed that

About 54% of the adults questioned thought that British children were "beginning to behave like animals".

More than a third of those surveyed also agreed that "it feels like the streets are infested" with children, while 43% said something had to be done to protect adults.

Around 49% said they disagreed with the statement that children who "get into trouble" were "misunderstood" and needed professional help.

Comments on tabloid newspaper comment columns about child crime then feature words such as "feral" and "vermin" and talk of "infestation" of the streets by children. In a few short years "little angels" become wild and vicious animals. Lest it be seen as special pleading by Barnados, in the last few weeks no less a body than the UN issued a report saying that
there was a "general climate of intolerance" towards British children and this could result in them being treated unfairly.

There is a real danger here of self-fulfilling prophecy - that regarding children as vermin will result in more of them behaving in such a way.

Ah well, it will no doubt all sell more newspapers. Which will please Rupert Murdoch.


Livia Indica said...

Well, it seems to me that children learn behavior. So, if folks think children are becoming wild and uncontrollable they should perhaps look in the mirror and analyze their own behavior.

Geraldine Charles said...

Absolutely, and very well put.

Worth mentioning also that all the "right to lifers" seem to lose interest in the "saved" infants once born - which kind of gives away their real motives.


Paul said...

Agree with all that has been said. And just to add that having lived in Asia for quite a while and travelled in Europe the UK does seem to be a particularly unfriendly place for children.

Children need space to grow and run free, a sense of being loved and above all an opening to story, wonder, mystery, magic.

Children are also very perceptive when we returned from Asia to the UK and my daughter was just 8 years old she asked to go back because, as she put it, "No one is happy here."

Brian Charles said...

Yes, children do indeed learn behaviour and what they have been taught in the UK for the last thirty years is the morality of privatisation - that there is no room for any sense of the collective - Thatcher's famous "There is no such thing as society" comment - and the "greed is good" philosophy of free market capitalism. This has been coupled with a preachiness of a morality which seems simply to amount to what is done with the genitals. Which is the real reason behind the "pro-lifers" nonsense - it is not born of concern for the life and welfare of human beings but what seems to be an insistence that women should "pay the price" of their "immorality".

As for roaming free, Paul. I remember when I was a child that I would leave the house in the morning with my friends and not get back until the afternoon. Nowadays, someone might well call the authorities to parents who allowed that.

Children are neither angels nor demons - they are human beings with the need and the right to grow, make mistakes and interact with one another.