What do Children, Culture, and Violence have to do with each other, one might ask. Unfortunately, the answer is: everything. Just as violence is, alas, a factor in our everyday adult lives, every day, we find that violence affects children. It's there in nursery rhymes and in lullabies, which originally were used as charms in the ancient Middle East to protect children from a demon that was believed to steal their souls in the night. Violence is present in stories about the Bogeyman, in fairy tales and picture books and in some of our most famous and popular novels for young people; it's on television shows and in cartoons, comics, music, and video games; it's in the schools, in the halls on the way to lunch, and on the playgrounds; and it's on the streets in our neighborhoods going to and from school. Violence is, sadly, in the home, and in our towns and cities. And, to be sure, violence is a part of our global village, where war, famine, disease, political repression, and child abuse of every kid is often a constant condition in many children's lives. Children are still exploited in the workplace, and they are the targets of sexual predators. The wolves that threatened Little Red Riding Hood on her way to her grandmother's are still waiting for children here and around the world every day.
What to do about this constant, seemingly eternal problem, is the subject of a conference that is being held later this week at the University of Florida -- co-hosted by the University's Center for Children and the Law and the Center for Children's Literature and Culture that produces these programs. It will bring together people from a variety of disciplines -- artists, writers, and scholars from the law, medicine, sociology, history, psychology and education -- to share perspectives and some solutions for this critical concern. Among the major speakers for the conference will be the award-winning poet and novelist, Ntozake Shange, whose works for children include Whitewash, a story about racial violence drawn from real events. Geoffrey Canada will also be speaking; Mr. Canada directs the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families in New York City and is the author of Fist Stick Knife Gun and Reaching Up for Manhood: Transforming the Lives of Boys in America. The conference will also include a keynote address from Chief Justice Harry Anstead of the Florida Supreme Court on the role of the justice system in violence prevention. Please join us, in Gainesville or on our website (http://childconference.ichp.edu) where we have posted information about the conference. And if you have comments and ideas, please let us hear from you on this subject that involves all of us.
Copyright 2003 © John Cech
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