In 1989, there was a United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Child, 2008). It was a treaty that was focused on human rights for people throughout the world who were under 18 years of age. Rights that were addressed included social, economic, political, civil, health, and cultural (United, 1989). While 18 was the age used for the definition of the line between childhood and adulthood, the UN did make provisions for countries where the age of majority occurred before the 18th birthday (United, 1989). Any nations that agreed to the treaty and ratified it were then bound by international law (Child, 2008). There is a UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that monitors the compliance of the member countries when it comes to this particular treaty. The Committee is made up of people from around the world, and that helps to avoid any type of favoritism for any country that may be violating the treaty (Child, 2008). In other words, looking the other way is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
Children must be protected and they must have rights that belong to them even before they become legal adults. Not all countries see the value in children, of course, and some of them give children nearly no rights at all. It makes sense that children do not have the same rights as adults, because children are not yet mature enough to make the wise decisions that go along with some of those rights. Despite that, all children have the right to a good life and protection from harm and abuse (Child, 2008; United, 1989). Giving children those rights takes nothing away from adults and only helps the child to have a chance at more success in life. If the rights given to children in a Convention overstep a country's bounds, though, it is possible that country will seek to avoid being involved in any treaty or agreement that would offer those rights.
Non-Ratification by the United States
The United States helped to draft the treaty and did a lot of work on it, but the U.S. did not ratify it (Child, 2008; United, 1989). It was signed by the U.S., but that is not the same thing as ratification. Somalia is the only other country on the planet that has not ratified this treaty. There are religious and political conservatives in the U.S. that are against the ratification of the Convention, and it is believed these groups are behind the reasons that the U.S. has not gone ahead and made sure that the Convention was ratified (Child, 2008). One of the main points of contention for these groups is the belief that domestic policy would be controlled by the UN if the Convention was ratified, and there are many groups that are seriously against that (Child, 2008). While it makes sense that the U.S. should control its own domestic policy, the Convention is mostly about making sure that children are safe and protected throughout the world. President Obama indicated that he was embarrassed by the lack of ratification and said he would examine the issue. The lack of ratification seems particularly odd, given the fact that the U.S. has signed and ratified two other, optional protocols that have been created since the Convention (Child, 2008).
Parental rights (for issues such as homeschooling) and death penalty concerns seem to be at the heart of the problem when it comes to whether the Convention will be ratified (Child, 2008). There are groups in the U.S. that are for the ratification and groups that are against it, but so far the U.S. government has not made a ruling as to whether the Convention ratification will take place or whether things will remain at the current status quo. There is no way of knowing when that ruling will come, or whether the U.S. will simply avoid addressing the issue and never ratify the Convention. It may depend on who holds the presidency and what kinds of values that person has, but it can also depend on the political climate in the U.S. At the time and/or how much influence the special interest groups have with a particular presidency. To that end, the Convention may never be ratified and the issues that surround it and what it was trying to correct may be issues with which the United States must continue to deal and to address on its own terms.
The General Inequality in the United States
Within the United States, there are issues with equality. Some of these issues are related to race, but there are other ways in which people are shown that they are not equal (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). Gender, religion, age, and all types of other differences are used in order to make people feel as though they are not equal. Overall, inequality in the United States is something that is said not to exist, but that people know actually does take place quite a lot (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). One of the biggest differences in people is economic. Some have a lot of money and some do not even have enough to get by. Most people are somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. It is important to understand that this inequality is there, because people who try to pretend that all people are equal and treated equally are not being honest with the way the world actually is.
It would be lovely if everyone was treated the same, but that does not happen within the U.S. Those who have a great deal of money are generally more privileged than others, and they are able to get themselves out of trouble and have everything that they want and need - including the nicest material things and the best medical care. Some people are also set apart socially, because they are "famous" or they have a social standing that affords them treatment that others would not receive. The inequality between people on social and economic issues is significant, and there are many more issues that also have to be considered when it comes to people not being treated equally (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009).
The Link Between Inequality and Childism
Among the issues addressed by the 1989 Convention was the general inequality of children throughout the world (Child, 2008). This is a serious issue for all children, and a serious issues for the communities in which these children live. Within the United States, the link between inequality and children is strong on several levels. Firstly, people in general are not treated equally (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). They are singled out based on factors that matter to society, such as social status and amount of money. Additionally, some kinds of people are seen as much stronger than other kinds of people. Men are judged to be stronger than women, for example, and while that may be true in most cases from a physical standpoint, it is not always true in other ways. Sexism is alive and well in the U.S., however, and children are another rung down the ladder from women in the eyes of many people.
With that being the case, children are already at a disadvantage because they are not seen to have as much value to society as adults and certainly not as much as male adults - even if they are male children (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). That does not mean that children in the U.S. are not treated well, because the United States, overall, is one of the best countries for the welfare of children. Despite that, children still do not have very many rights, and that is not the same thing as being treated properly (Wilkinson & Pickett, 2009). There are arguments on both sides of the issue when it comes to how children should be treated and what rights they should have, as well. Some argue that children are treated too leniently in the U.S. today and that they have too many rights, while others feel as though children (especially older children) should have more rights than they currently do. That way they are able to move forward in life more quickly in the realms of education and work.
Social Inequality and Childism
Socially, children have trouble with equality (Momsen, 2004). Because they are not able to drive, for example, they cannot just head out and be social when they would like to. They also do not work, so office friendships are not cultivated. One of the largest problems children have when it comes to social inequality, however, takes place in school. Children who do not have a high level of popularity in school are often bullied, and that can lead to emotional scars that run deep and that take a very long time to heal (Shapiro, 2004). When children are bullied, it is often because of their social skills (or lack thereof) and because they do not come from well-known families in…