There is a temptation in our culture, more so now than when Jonathan Kozol wrote his book, Ordinary Resurrections (published in 2000), to look upon children as investments. Invest in them now for the benefit they will provide when they get older.
“The right kind of investment,” says the former CEO of a large corporation that sells toothpaste and detergent, “from conception to age five, will pay back every dollar we spend at least four for one, plus interest, plus inflation. I don’t know of a factory anybody can build that will give that kind of return…” However intended, it seems a peculiar way to speak of children (page 137).
Peculiar indeed. But that peculiarity has more and more taken root in the public consciousness. We talk of children’s test scores – and of school budgets, and argue endlessly about teacher tenure and the need to reform education.
We need to be talking about these things. Education policy – and the politics that surround issues of policy, are important. But the souls of kids can get lost in the process.
“But there is more to life, and ought to be much more to childhood, than readiness for economic function. Childhood ought to have at least a few entitlements that aren’t entangled with utilitarian considerations.” One of them should be the right to a degree of unencumbered satisfaction in the sheer delight and goodness of existence itself” (page 142).
The glory of God is the human being fully alive, the theologian Iranaeus wrote in the 3rd century. To see kids fully alive – as kids, as children of God, is to open the window into God’s glory.