By Hayley Lowe
Americans like of the idea privacy a lot. The right likes it (think “big government get off my back”) and the left likes it (think pro-choice). In no realm is this more heated than the family. Ironically, both sides of the aisle seem hell bent on legislating on some very intimate areas of child rearing.
So here you are, you and your spouse/partner/sexual acquaintance make a baby and then the female half gives birth to it. You made it, you have to take care of it, should you get to do whatever you want with it? Everyone agrees that you cannot severely abuse your child, but many people think you should be allowed to hurt your child mildly (spanking, beltings). Should you be allowed to dress your 5-year-old daughter up like film’s most iconic prostitute ala Pretty Woman and instruct her to dance while broadcast onto cable television? Should you be able to feed your child chips and soda until they become obese and at risk for life threatening diseases?
The childhood obesity epidemic and the proliferation of children on exploitative reality television shows such as 16 and Pregnant and Toddlers & Tiaras are a few of the many indications that the American childhood is in crisis. Nonetheless, policy makers’ attempts to address these complex issues are superficial at best. Some experts are calling for the ban of chocolate milk in schools—a quintessential childhood treat. In a far more ridiculous example, One Wisconsin Senator citing research that children are less likely to suffer from abuse and neglect in homes with married parents (we can be sure he is speaking of the hetero variety) has proposed a bill that officially deems single parenthood as a contributing factor to abuse and neglect.
With what we know today about the effects of everything from too much Coca-Cola to too little affection, it seems our society could do a much better job of creating a legal and cultural framework that supports our most vulnerable and promising citizens. However, lawmakers continue to miss the mark and communities failingly look to the law to remedy problems that should be addressed at the grassroots level. Rather than taking a holistic approach respectful of parental autonomy and protective of children’s interests, both sides interject their petty partisan ideologies into creating laughable legislation.
The popular child health and welfare policy debate is skirting the real issues. People eat crap that is killing them because they eat too much of it and they don’t know what else to eat or how to cook it. People abuse and neglect because they lack a proper support system. Children fall by the wayside because they do not have access to quality education. So instead of attacking culprits like single parents and the 6-piece chicken nugget, legislators and communities should look to the root of the problem which lies in a society in which public education is marginal, parents are too broke and too low on time to cook nutritious meals and participate in their children’s education and development, and strong community is a dying motif.
Toddlers and Tiaras
On Childhood Obesity
Chocolate Milk in Schools
Proposed Wisconsin Law
Should Sugar be regulated like alcohol and tobacco?