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What kind of a world would it be where children have to defend their rights?

James McTaggart, Educational Psychologist, responds to Call 13 of our 25 Calls campaign.

Call 13: Support children to become human rights defenders

I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about this call.  I wasn’t sure if it was the right one.

Look at the language – support children to be human rights 'defenders'. Are they under attack? Is there conflict going on?  Who are they defending their rights from?

What kind of a world would it be where children have to defend their rights?

It would be a world where adults have to have a consultation about whether it is OK to hit a child as long as they are 'yours'.

Where adults grant that children have enough of a mind to assume that behaviour is a matter of choice, but not enough for us to consider overwhelmed emotions, unmet needs – or that we haven’t listened to what they can’t tell us.

It would be a world where children, and policy about them, bear the ills of our time that we can’t or won’t solve for ourselves. Where adults think the school curriculum can prevent terrorism, poverty, violence, extremism, obesity, drug use, climate change…

It would be a world where they only measure and dispute the things that adults care about – are you attending school, are you learning, are you motivated, are you the right weight, do you behave…? And miss the point that those things would improve if we concentrated on what matters to the children – are you safe, do you feel welcome, do you have hope, can your family afford to eat well, is anyone there for you?

It would be a world where education is about producing the right kind of adult, rather than being about children, their interest and hopes, what brings fulness of life to them here and now.

A world where we use the euphemisms of 'tough choices' and 'difficult decisions' to describe cuts and closures to services we know could help them flourish.

It would have meetings of adults in suits and lanyards around full-size tables, with a child or two in t-shirts, answering the adults’ questions, using the words they know we will understand or allow, rather than the ones that express what they need us to hear.

We would worry about what other adults will think if we promote equality for children and young people regardless of gender, sexuality, race, disability, status, wealth, appearance…

And children who stand up for their dignity, or that of others, are scoffed at as 'snowflakes'.

Is this our world? A world where children need to defend their rights?

I’m not asking you. I’m suggesting we ask them – and listen to what they tell us.

James McTaggart is an Educational Psychologist. He is responding here to Call 13 of our 25 Calls campaign contributed by Ruby and Children and Young People's Commissioner Scotland, Bruce Adamson, "Support children to become human rights defenders".

This week's 25 Calls contributor:

James McTaggart is an Educational Psychologist in Scottish Highlands

Read other responses

Call 13

Support children to become human rights defenders

Read the full call

"Stereotypes limit lives. Challenge them"

Zero Tolerance also contributed a response to the human rights defenders call

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25 Calls campaign

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