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What’s Wrong with our Children?

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By Marian Wright Edelman

This is a very hard and scary time for millions of Americans and our neighbors all around the world. The bitter hatred and destructive violence in the Middle East.

The threat of nuclear conflagration in the trigger-edge tensions between India and Pakistan. The AIDS plague which is decimating millions of lives in Africa and across the globe leaving countless orphans in its wake. Civil wars around the world fought too often by child soldiers and victimizing civilians—mostly women and children. Threats of chemical warfare with little effective preparedness to prevent it. And the moral wretchedness of a world that continues to tolerate the exploitation of the poor by the rich and the weak by the strong and children by adults and institutions responsible for protecting them.
We adults need to wake up, take stock, and change course. I am asked so often why our children are acting so badly and what is causing the breakdown in values by the young. Since I think adult hypocrisy is the central problem contributing to child and youth difficulties, I wrote a prayer urging adults not to ask what's wrong with our children but to ask what's wrong with us. We are what's wrong with our children.

What's Wrong with Our Children?

Lord, what's wrong with our children?
Children having children
Children killing children
Children killing others
Children killing themselves
Children roaming streets alone or in gangs all day and night
Children floating through life like driftwood on a beach
Children addicted to tobacco and alcohol and heroin and cocaine and pot
Drinking and drugging themselves to death to escape reality
Children running away from home and being thrown away by parents
Children being locked up in jails with adult criminal mentors or all alone
Children dying of AIDS
Children bubbling with rage and crushed by depression
What's wrong with our children, Lord?
Adults are what's wrong with our children
Parents letting children raise themselves—or be raised by television
Children being shaped by peers and gangs instead of parents, grandparents, and kin
Children roaming the streets because there's nobody at home or paying enough attention
Children going to drug houses that are always open instead of to schoolhouses and church houses that are often closed
Children seeing adults be violent to each other and to them
What's wrong with our children?
We're what's wrong with our children
Adults telling children one thing and doing another
Adults making promises we don't keep and preaching what we don't practice
Adults telling children to control themselves while slapping and spanking
Adults telling children to be honest while lying and cheating
Adults telling children not to be violent while marketing and glorifying violence
Adults telling children to be healthy while selling them junk food and addicting them to smoke and drink and careless sex
We are what's wrong with our children.
Lord, help us to repent.

Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children's Defense Fund and a working committee member of the Black Community Crusade for Children (BCCC) whose mission is to Leave No Child Behind®.
To learn about the Movement and the Act to Leave No Child Behind and what you can do, call 1-800-CDF-1200 or write The Children's Defense Fund, 25 E Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20001.

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