Children are the Present for the Future
In the United States children make up almost one quarter of all citizens with close to 75 million today. They represent the largest social minority who have neither a voice nor can represent themselves in our society.
In 1991, colleagues from different disciplines founded the interdisciplinary field of Children’s Studies at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. The aim and mission of Children’s Studies was to promote a unified and comprehensive approach to the study of children from 0 to 18 years of age from the perspectives of the arts, humanities, natural and social sciences, medicine and law. Children’s studies rests on the ontological claim that children must be viewed in their fullness as human beings, as a generational and social class in all their civil, political, social, economic and cultural dimensions. In this way, we aim at representing children through integrated knowledge and research in the teaching of our students as citizens, parents, and professionals in the many and varied professional domains they will occupy in the future.
Children’s Studies at Brooklyn College was the first organized effort of its kind. Hailed as “pioneering” by The New York Times, we find today both Children’s Studies and Childhood Studies programs at numerous academic institutions across the United States and worldwide. From its inception, the human rights of children provided a major framework for the new and interdisciplinary field.
More students than we had anticipated are keenly interested in the study of children and have completed degrees in Children’s Studies. We have learned that many of our students are genuine child advocates when they come into our program. Every semester, enrollments are large in our own courses and in departments that participate in the Children’s Studies program. Our career exploration internship attracts numerous students, who find placements in chambers of judges, district attorneys, New York child protective offices and nonprofit advocacy agencies, UNICEF, children’s and historical museums and in publishing companies. And our students have been admitted to major graduate and professional programs.
In November 2011, the Center, with a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, held a national consultation on “Social Justice for Children: To End Child Abuse and Violence against Children.” In June 2012, the Children’s Studies Center submitted an Alternative Report to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva under the “Protocol on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.”
The U.S. Periodic Report described said: “The work of the Center, along with other non-governmental advocates, has been crucial in the adoption of new laws in the state of New York.” #
Dr. Gertrud Lenzer is a professor of sociology and children’s studies at Brooklyn College and a professor of sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is the founding director of the Children and Youth Studies Program and the Children’s Studies Center for Research, Policy and Public Service at Brooklyn College.