The Pledge for Children


If the powers-that-be are ever to recognise the need to make choices for children, and face the results of their own failure to make those choices to date, they will first have to relinquish the moral high ground of their assumption that today’s children “have never had it so good”.

Of course children in post-industrial Western societies are “better off”, in our terms, than the children who worked with their parents in the cotton plantations and mills of nineteenth century America and Britain, or those who work in the similar sweatshops of contemporary cities in countries that are industrialising now. Of course our children’s world is privileged beyond the dreams of millions in the villages of developing nations.

And of course we can see our treatment of children as humane and respectful if we compare it with the treatment of children swept around Eastern Europe in an orgy of “ethnic cleansing” or shot as vermin in the streets of Brazil. But hindsight, and value-judgments that tell us life is better for most children here and now than somewhere else or at another time, are a cop-out.

The moral imperative for any society, surely, is to do the best it can in response to its own unique conditions; doing better than other societies that are less well-placed is no good cause for complacency.

The comparisons that matter , are between how things are for our children and how they could be. When we make those comparisons the moral high ground crumbles beneath us, because our society could do so much better for children than it does.