Saturday, September 28, 2013

Children Are Not the Future, They Are the Present

Wil Darcangelo
Weekly Reflection Paper - Friday, September 27, 2013
Culture and Religious Variations on Childhood

The definitions of childhood are as varied as the number of children on the planet. It is possible to define it for one’s own purposes, but defining it on behalf of the culture at large is a task of arrogance. The field is too wide and the cultural differences too many for any one metric to emerge. Each would be more unfair to the majority than the other. Each would impose upon the other a cultural paradigm unfit for universal application, and thus, be doing some cultures a disservice in favor of those whose cultures happen to align with a prescribed educational format.

But when it comes to the care and raising of a human child, there may be room for a common mission to be articulated. A constitution of child-rearing that all humans could adopt in their own way and style. A document of faith that acknowledges our special relationship and responsibility to those of us who are weaker, less-informed, struggling. I do not propose that document here, but I do know some of the key elements to be kept in mind: We have a duty toward those navigating earlier stages of development to be mindful of their position of progress and be encouraging at all times. We must do our part to help them to overcome fears and insecurities. We must maintain vigilance for emotional disturbances and foster individualized learning opportunities such as customized educational plans, mentorships and internships. We must acknowledge that children are people with needs as are we all. We must live up to the needs we felt when we were children ourselves and find ways to improve upon our ability to learn from the mistakes made by adults during our own development.

As a mentor and substitute teacher in public schools I know that I cannot create one method to best serve all children. But I can have one mission: Do what is best for each and let what is best for one be no guide for the rest.

Ned Parker’s observation that children are not the future of the church, but the present, is a perfect example of the shift in paradigm that our culture needs to explore if we wish to make the most of our children’s years of development. “...the truth is that you ARE the church right now, this minute. We wouldn't be this church that we are without you here. You make us whole."

If we truly acknowledge that children aren’t just something meant for tomorrow’s usefulness, we might make better, more enlightened use of the time we have with them.

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