Part 2 from last week’s Big Society and Children event
Debates have existed for a very long time over what constitutes a
Good Childhood. However in recent years we have had a very helpful array of
inputs into this debate for our current era. Arguably much of the current
debate was kicked off by Sue Palmer’s ‘Toxic Childhood’ in 2006 the questions
have tended to range around both what is harmful to children and childhood, and
in contrast what is helpful.
The Children’s Society ‘Good Childhood’ Report in 2009 was not
only a major contribution to the debate it has managed to deliver some ongoing
momentum through further research, the developing place of Good Childhood
conversations and the interaction with other research and reports.
Simply to list some of the other significant input illustrates
the amount of work being undertaken:-
The Compass ‘Commercialisation of Childhood Report’ in 2006
The UNICEF Child Well Being Report Card 7 in 2007 which placed
the UK at the bottom of the league of most developed nations. This highlighted
inequality as 1 particular issue. It has been followed up by further research
published by UNICEF UK & Ipsos Mori this autumn.
In 2010 we had the Mothers Unions’ ‘Bye Buy Childhood’ and this
year has seen the Bailey Report on the ‘Commercialisation and Sexualisation of
Childhood’ as well as that by Action for Children & ResPublica.
With all of this work being done and the very firm conviction
that the commodification of children and childhood is something that is both
real and undesirable and therefore needs to be tackled we are rightly in the
In doing so we must recognise the historical changing nature of
childhood through the centuries. Aries may not have got everything right, I’m
sure he didn’t, but his work does show along with others that childhood has not
been seen or expressed consistently or constantly. One of the key factors
affecting this is undoubtedly life expectancy, both in terms of child
mortality, and of overall life expectancy. When it is likely that a high
percentage of children born today will live to 100 compared with when I was
born an anticipation I would live to just over 70 it must affect how we view
every stage of life.
But in this real debate we will want to continually affirm that
every child, whatever her or his birth circumstances, is made in the image of
God; is loved by God; was died for by Christ and so is of immense worth. Her
value lies not in who she may become, what she may do, or what economic
contribution she may make it lies simply in being human.
But our engagement in the debate must also move into more
specific issues so in broad terms I want to look at some key areas within
current debates in the ‘Big Society’ agenda