Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” – applied to modern times – is focused on the idea that distribution of wealth is necessary for the future of the child living on welfare. But, what if there is very little or no money available to the child (through the government) to pursue his or her studies? The poor child, if he or she goes to school, would lag in the classroom for the reason that his or her parents cannot spend sufficient time to teach him after school. Children are applied to menial jobs, too, especially in the developing world. The developed world has had its indecent share of child labor in the past.
When Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” was first published, there were far too many problems facing the child in the now-developed world. Although many of those problems were resolved as education yielded dividends in the now-civilized world – there are problems facing the poor child still. These problems are not limited by space and time. It is therefore essential to consider the problematic issues facing the poor child in the modern world. This exercise is meant to increase our timeless appreciation of “A Modest Proposal. ” After all, poor children around the world continue to face the troubles confronted by the poor child of Swift’s time.
George Orwell was correct when he wrote that “All animals are created equal but some animals are more equal than others,” actually referring to human beings whom scientists refer to as animals (5). Throughout the history of humanity, people have generally known that they were created equal. And yet, there have been separations, discriminations, dissimilarities, and inequalities, for the reason that God, Nature or Evolution – depending on what we choose to believe in – did not grant equal abilities, talents, and gifts to all human beings. Some men are richer and more intelligent than the others.
Some are born deaf, dumb, and blind. And, some must rely on income support because they just cannot beat poverty on their own. But, what if income support is insufficient to meet the child’s intellectual needs? What if he or she is potentially brilliant but cannot do so well in the classroom because his parents cannot buy him books to read in the home? According to the United States Bureau of Census, the most recent poverty rates of children are higher than ever. A large percentage of children in the classroom are coming from low socioeconomic households.
And, a huge amount of research has shown that a child’s socioeconomic status affects his or her intelligence level as well as academic achievement (Milne and Plourde). Vail writes that children from high poverty environments “enter school less ready to learn, and they lag behind their more-affluent classmates in their ability to use language to solve problems (12). ” What is more, children’s socioeconomic status has been found to affect their consistency of attending academic institutions, in addition to the number of formal education years they eventually complete.
Many researchers believe that there is a positive correlation between socioeconomic status and academic achievement. Still, Caldwell and Ginther have reported that “[w]hile low-SES is highly correlated with low achievement, some low-SES students are academically successful (142). ” Then again, the words ‘vicious cycle’ are often used when poverty is discussed. In a groundbreaking ethnographic study, Milne and Plourde discovered that children from low socioeconomic households who do well at school have parents who make sure that their children have educational materials available at home.
All low socioeconomic families with children who are high achievers at school have books and writing materials for their children at home, even if these families have to rely on support systems to supply them with educational materials. What is more, these families have time allotted every day for their children to engage in academic activities, including homework, with their parents’ participation. These families also believe in monitoring the use of television by their children (Milne and Plourde).
All of the mothers in this study had at least completed tenth grade in school, and expressed that they would like their children to know the importance of education too. The parents of these children openly talked about the importance of education with their children. Finally, they all agreed that they did not want their children to believe that schooling was an option. Rather, education was considered a necessity in these homes (Milne and Plourde). All the same, such families are few indeed. Not all poor children have mothers that show interest in education.
Similarly, a poor child’s needs may be disregarded completely if his or her parents are alcoholics that use up all income support on liquor. After all, there are frustrations in the poor child’s home, and these may take the form of drug abuse or domestic violence. If not, a poor child’s parents may send him off to work. Swift’s scenario for the poor child may take another shape in India, for example. In that part of the developing world, poverty is intense, with 41 percent of the world’s poor.
So therefore parents encourage their children to work instead of going to school. The policy of the Indian government on child labor has evolved over many years. The country did not find it possible to ban all forms of child labor at once, seeing that working children contribute greatly to household income. Besides, the country finds that children contribute to economic growth, being the cheapest labor force (Krueger and Tjornhom). As mentioned previously, child labor laws took time to develop in the now-developed countries, too.
Children were recognized as economic assets before regulations stepped in to either stop the employment of children altogether or vastly reduce their representation in the labor force. As an example, Bradbury, in her book, Working Families: Age, Gender and Daily Survival in Industrializing Montreal, takes the reader down Montreal’s streets and into the dwellings of working class families who helped shape Canada’s industrial revolution. The lives of working men, women, and children have all been documented (Bradbury).
If Swift’s child enters their lives, he or she would be a welcome part of the working family described by Bradbury. Likewise, McIntosh, working at the National Archives of Canada, has produced a well-documented book on child labor during the 19th and early 20th centuries: Boys in the Pits: Child Labour in Coal Mines. The book is an exploration of the history of boys between the ages of 8 and 15 who labored hard in the mines and were known only for their work. Such children may also join Swift’s circle of little friends in “A Modest Proposal.
” The fact remains that children continue to be disproportionately hurt by poverty in our time – of sports cars, rockets, and lots more. If properly trained, many of the same children may add great value to our world. But, there are problems such as poverty and illiteracy that refuse to go away. No matter how one tries to attack poverty, it takes a U-turn to complete its cycle after cycle. Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” takes such a dismal view of poverty with an electrifying hope, which the author displayed through satire.
On a similar note, it is possible to suppose that the vicious cycle of poverty would break once and for all, at some point in time, for all poor children of the world. Regardless of our beliefs about the reasons for poverty, the government has shouldered the responsibility to care for the poor by spending a part of its spending budget on income support programs such as social insurance, public assistance, and work/employment programs. In order to raise the standard of living of the poor, the government also considers education as an essential social welfare program.
Still, there are poor children with parents that refuse to buy them books and other educational materials for use at home, even though the government is providing them with income support. What should the government do in order to break this cycle of illiteracy and poverty combined? – Perhaps a paradigm shift is in order. To provide for and educate every child, it is the government’s responsibility to educate every parent. Perhaps it would take the advertising industry to work alongside the government to boost sales of books instead of booze. For the benefit of the poor child, many changes are called for.
Works Cited Bradbury, Bettina. Working Families: Age, Gender and Daily Survival in Industrializing Montreal. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007. Caldwell, G. P. , and Ginther, D. W. “Differences in learning styles of low socioeconomic status for low and high achievers. ” Education (1996), 117, pp. 141-148. Krueger, Dirk, and Tjornhom, Jessica. “Economic Inequality and the Emergence of Child Labor Laws. ” Discussion Paper. Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (Aug 2002).
11 Nov 2008. <http://siepr. stanford. edu/papers/pdf/01-36. pdf>. McIntosh, Robert. Boys in the Pits: Child Labour in Coal Mines. Montreal, Quebec: McGill- Queen’s University Press, 2000. Milne, Allison, & Plourde, Lee A. “Factors of a Low-SES Household: What Aids Academic Achievement? ” Journal of Instructional Psychology (Sep 2006). Orwell, G. Animal Farm. London: Secker and Warburg, 1945. Vail, K. “Grasping what kids need to raise performance. ” The Education Digest (2004), 69, pp. 12-25.
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