What does ‘not caring’ look like? It looks like a leaders debate. If our government is truly rooted in democratic principles, the issues being debated prior to an election would reflect the interests of the people. The three most powerful parties in the country are haggling over fiscal management minutia and making promises to stand up for the oppressed middle class. The niqab is making national headlines while the real issue is prejudice. Party leaders hurl insults and dump inordinate amounts of messages through every social media medium possible to warn of the danger of electing the other dangerous parties. Lost in the din of greedy hands clamouring for money is the cry the Indigenous child living on a reserve in squalid conditions and the quiet weeping of mothers and fathers who want the death of their missing and murdered Aboriginal daughter to be investigated instead of used as political leverage. They want her voice to be heard from the grave; heard in death when it was ignored in life. If our democracy truly represents the issues Canadians care about, we only care about getting our fair share of economic equality and we cannot claim to care about the voice of children. Hultqvist and Dahlberg powerfully state: “There is no natural or evolutionary child, only the historically produced discourses and power relations that constitute the child as an object and subject of knowledge, practice, and political intervention” (as cited in Taylor, 2011, p. 421). The construct that oppresses children is ‘constructed’ by adults, us, and then leveraged as political value to buy our vote.
What does ‘not caring’ look like? It looks like the t-shirt on my back, bought for fifteen dollars, because I convinced myself that I can’t afford to pay more money to ensure the conditions were humane where it was made. It looks like me, sitting at home watching a documentary on Netflix about an oppressive boss in China who enslaves young people and forces them to work an inordinate number of hours for horrifyingly small remuneration… on a computer made with parts from that very sweatshop. The righteous anger I feel is only a thinly veiled opaque excuse that is draped over my shameful hypocrisy. If I cared I would act. But I don’t. I buy the shirt and I buy the computer, and then I complain about how hard my life is when they don’t work like I think they should. Wyness states that “The abuse can be both prevented and dealt with more effectively where children are able to both voice their opinions and concerns and take remedial action from a very early age. In these terms, participation is a precondition of welfare” (Wyness, 2013, p. 348). On the other hand, voicing opinions and concerns only becomes possible if there are ears to hear.
What does ‘not caring’ look like? Not caring is debating what is the best curriculum for children while not including them in the conversation. Not caring is admiring the art and music that is expressed by youth who grew up in abusive homes and then not speaking out against a provincial government that cuts funding to programs that support families at risk. Not caring is thinking we know better. Not caring is teaching children how to answer questions right. Not caring ultimately is a reflection of our hidden belief that children are our property.
It’s time to stop feigning helplessness and blaming a social construct that has rendered us powerless. It’s time to stop claiming that the problem is too vast. If it doesn’t make us uncomfortable and it isn’t difficult to the point that we cry tears of frustration, it probably isn’t enough. Maybe it’s better to just say that we don’t care about children’s voices and at least start from a place of rugged honesty rather than claim we care and not do anything about it. After all, what message are we sending to the next generation about how to care? What are we teaching our children?
Taylor, A. (2011). Reconceptualizing the ‘nature’of childhood.
Childhood, 18(4), 420-433.
Wyness, M. (2013). Global standards and deficit childhoods: the
contested meaning of children's participation. Children's
Geographies, 11(3), 340-353.