A revelatory investigation into how America is failing its children, and an urgent manifesto on why helping them is the best way to improve all of our lives—from the New York Times bestselling author of Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice
“Compelling . . . an extremely sympathetic and worthy attempt to protect kids . . . [Benforado] has written a book that reads like a manifesto. His ideas are bold, to the point, and ambitious.”—The Atlantic
At the dawn of the twentieth century, a bright new age for children appeared on the horizon, with progress on ending child labor, providing public education, combating indigence, promoting wellness, and creating a juvenile justice system. But a hundred years on, the promised light has not arrived. Today, more than eleven million American children live in poverty and more than four million lack health insurance. Each year, we prosecute thousands of kids as adults, while our schools crumble. We deny young people any political power, while we fail to act on the issues that matter most to them: racism, inequality, and climate change.
Through unforgettable stories, law professor Adam Benforado draws a vivid portrait of our neglect. We are there when Ariel is placed in an orphanage after her parents are locked away for transporting marijuana, when Harold first gazes in disbelief upon the immaculate lawn of an elite private school after a childhood of asphalt play yards, when Wylie is hit with a paddle by his public-school principal as punishment for taking a moment of silence to protest gun violence. When Tyler runs for governor at age seventeen, we are also there to witness the extraordinary capacities of young people.
Our disregard for children’s rights is not simply a moral problem; it’s also an economic and social one. The root cause of nearly every major challenge we face—from crime to poor health to unemployment—can be found in our mistreatment of kids. But in that sobering truth is also the key to changing our fate as a nation.
Drawing on the latest research on the value of early intervention, investment, and empowerment, A Minor Revolution makes the urgent case for putting children first—in our budgets and policies, in how we develop products and enact laws, and in our families and communities. Childhood is the window of opportunity for all of us.
In this persuasive and wide-ranging study, Drexel University law professor Benforado (Unfair) draws on scientific studies, policy research, and case histories to show an urgent need to "put children first" in law enforcement, education, parenting, and other areas. Arguing that policymakers typically prioritize adults' needs over children's, Benforado notes that even though research shows early parental attachment is key to child development, there are no federal laws guaranteeing paid childcare leave; as a result, almost half of American parents are back to work within three days of childbirth. Elsewhere, he criticizes legislation and judicial rulings based on the notion that "mom and dad are the gatekeepers to knowledge," cites evidence that young workers "have the highest levels of discriminatory experiences of any age group," and catalogs military recruitment campaigns that target kids as young as 13 ("We are so inured to the idea that the young should fight and the old should lead that it can be hard to grasp the unfairness of our system"). Among other solutions, he proposes the creation of a federal Children's Bureau that would coordinate with environmental, health, education, and legal agencies to ensure young people's rights are considered. Deeply researched and passionately argued, this is an irrefutable call for change.