The Nobel Prize-winning author Ngugi wa Thiong’o has insisted rightfully that “Children are the future of any society,” adding, “If you want to maim the future of any society, you simply maim the children.” (1)
If one important measure of a democracy is how a society treats its children – especially children of color, poor and working-class youth, and those with disabilities – there can be little doubt that the United States is failing. Half of all public school children live in near poverty, 16 million children receive food stamps and 90 percent of Black children will be on food stamps at some point during childhood. (2) Moreover, too many children are either incarcerated or homeless.
The National Center on Family Homelessness reports that “One in 45 children experience homelessness in America each year. That’s over 1.6 million children. [Moreover] while homeless, they experience high rates of acute and chronic health problems. The constant barrage of stressful and traumatic experience also has profound effects on their development and ability to learn.” (3) Sadly, these statistics rarely scratch the surface of the dire and deep-seated problems facing many young people in the richest country in the world, a state of affairs that provokes too little public outrage.