Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Considered Theory on Why Children's Authors Get No Respect

Now that I got my rant out of my system, I want to follow up with a more thoughtful post. Why is that authors of children's books get so little respect? From our friends and relatives? And even from writers of adult literature (they make us sit at the "kids table" at conferences - 'struth!)

I think it's because our society really does not respect children. Think about it - even with all the lip service given to education, and the importance of the next generation and how critical the early years are in human development, kids don't really count.

Why is it that high school and university teachers get paid more than elementary school teachers? Is their job harder? Does it require more knowledge? No it isn't harder - teaching elementary school well is about as tough a job as it gets. And it doesn't require more expertise or knowledge either. You need plenty of training and  years of experience to really get good at turning 6-year-old wild things into functional humans. So why do ivory tower types get the big bucks? Because of the implicit notion that littler people are worth less, and so are the people who work with them.

Take a look at policies regarding day care. How much money do we allot to looking after our youngsters? Generally less per kid than an average car owner pays to maintain their car per year. ($4k-10K for day care, $9K for the car, including depreciation, insurance, gas, maintenance and fuzzy dice.) I'm not a social policy expert, so don't harangue me about my figures - my point is simply that we don't devote much to looking after the little ones.

The simple truth is kids are as equally complex and as equally deserving  as we old folks are, and should be treated no differently than the rest of society. But it's been easy to disregard kids because they've traditionally been the province of women - another disregarded and disrespected group. When men don't deal with young children, it's easy to overlook their essential humanness - children are us, after all, in the make-over "before" pic.

I think, too, children remind us adults of our own essential vulnerability. A lot of the grownups I know spend a lot of time shoving down this realization. They no longer remember what it was like to be a child, or if they do, they hate what they recall and wish it had never happened. Lost dreams, dashed hopes, broken hearts - these happened to us. So we don't want to be reminded of a time before that, when the world was still new. Instead, we turn away, dismiss, ignore. We confuse youth with a lack of complexity. Ignorance with stupidity. Small size with small needs.

When you diminish the value of children, you can then diminish the value of everyone else who deals with them - teachers, day care workers, parents, and yes, writers. So what I experience is just the tip of the iceberg, really.

So this turned into a rant too! Oh well!

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