Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Richard Mitchell - Persistence and Listening to Our Children

Richard C. Mitchell, probably one of the most involved speakers we have had so far. He is passionate, knowledgeable and engaging, but a little to focused. His overall goal is to inform as many people as possible of the UN Convention of the Rights of Children, as it is outlined in the document produced by said convention and Richard is right to do this, but he seems to want everyone else to also do this. It is his primary goal and he wants a major focus on it. In my opinion this is unrealistic, not the goals of the convention just the aspect of focusing on this, there are so many different causes that need to be dealt with and so many conventions from the UN that to just do this one seems to be negligent. Also to hold the UN to anything it says is useless because as it has shown again and again, the UN is where all the nice countries go and pat each other on the back, it is a broken bureaucracy that is effectively useless. He mentioned it himself, at a UN talk in Geneva everybody has glowing reviews of what they had done, and how good they have been, but a person on the front line of child poverty stands up and completely disagrees. I wish I had a link or article to corroborate my statement, but unfortunately it is anecdotal evidence from his talk. There are tons of examples of the UN being entirely ineffectual, one that everyone knows is Rwanda, but let us get back on track. I agree that if the UN convention says that the countries that ratify it are held to it is true, but with no consequence and so many conventions, it will not be taking as seriously as it should. Also marketing costs money and if I had to chose between marketing a UN convention of the Rights of Children and welfare/healthcare/education etc... I believe I would have to go with the latter.

Now, as for the contents of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, there is little that I disagree with. I was extremely lucky to grow up where I did and with what I had. I often think of how lucky I was I was born into a country that is stable, safe and offers me all the benefits of growing up in Canada, and how unfair it seems that some children are born into war, or extremism. I instantly agree with the idea that a child should have the opportunity to live in a safe environment, and have life essentials available. What really struck me was that 1 in 7 children still live in poverty in Canada (shown here), that also means a possible dangerous environment, as poorer areas can be higher in crime (and I am NOT saying poverty breeds crime, there are many factors to crime and generalizations are not useful) and the child can be lacking in nutrition/housing. I would love if every child could grow up happy, playing sports and not have to worry about life until they are older, worrying sucks and should be reserved for adults. Also, let us not forget about teenagers, as they are considered in this as well, they absolutely fall under the conventions parameters. I recently found out that child services does not help children older than 16, but you are not an adult till 18. How does that make any sense, if you need to leave an abusive household, or are on your own, you can't rent an apartment as you are not an adult. This is something that I think is covered by the safe environment aspect of the convention.

The other aspect of the convention I find interesting is the idea of listening to our children, Mitchell calls them our Silenced Citizens. Admittedly at first I thought this was silly, I mentioned asking a 6 year old if he wanted education reform and how obtuse that would be. However on further thought it makes sense to talk to them. You don't need clear concise well spoken answers, you just need to listen. If the kids say they are bored, then maybe the kids are bored, novel concept eh? Extending this, talking to adolescents makes all the sense in the world, I was teen not all that long ago (I like to say) and I would have LOVED to be asked my opinion on school or how it is structured. Obviously you will get snarky answers and likely get some junk, but I think that it is easily sifted through. Mitchell mentioned a program that was voluntary (with pay though) to get teens interested in talking about the system. This is a brilliant idea, you are likely to get people who care, which will hopefully generate good data and you pay them which shows (in less than symbolic way) that it pays to care.

All in all I think Mitchell is very intelligent and has a noble cause, I have all the best wishes for him and hope he can achieve his goal one day, even if I think it tough.