Their Name is Today – a review

Their Name is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World

This is a very timely book for anyone who wants to ‘raise and influence children to be more compassionate and considerate, more courageous and confident, more independent, secure and unselfish ’. Written by Johann Christoph Arnold, a widely experienced parent and counsellor from the Bruderhof community, it gives voice to passionate advocates for children, people who are fighting to take back childhood. This is not a self-help book or a useful handbook for parenting or education. It’s a book full of reasons for hope.

Today’s children in the Western world are growing up in the eye of a perfect storm. The world around them forces early exposure to violence and sexualisation. Often their homes lack family time or they live with the fallout from broken relationships and separation. Parents face an ever growing need for childcare as they struggle to meet economic needs and their children’s expectations for material possessions. At school they face stress caused by relentless testing and demands for academic success and an education service that increasingly views children as nothing more than potential economic productivity units. Cyberbullying ensures that children have no place of safety, even in their own homes, while concern is expressed about the number of hours children spend in front of screens of various kinds at the expense of play. For some, hectic social schedules are crammed with organised activities as parents try to gain a social edge. So in the midst of all the hand wringing, where is the hope?

Calling on educational thinkers, writer and philosophers of the past (Plato, Thoreau, Froebel, Dostoyevsky and Einstein) Arnold construct an argument for the present, in which children learn through play, through failure, through opportunities to solve problems and to develop critical thinking skills. The argument is reinforced with copious examples from counter cultural people who are determined to create such opportunities for the children in their care.

Everybody has a part to play in creating an environment which nurtures our children.  Honest parenting should model healthy relationships, respect, integrity and compassion, not just talk about it – model gratitude as an antidote to materialism and learn to give to help your children understand the value of sharing. Adults in society need to restore an understanding of reverence for life and politicians should have the will to act, not just bandy words in a relentless drive for economic success and improved social mobility.

The hope in this book derives from the examples of those people – parents, teachers, counsellors and youth workers – who are determined to restore ‘every child’s right to the joy and wonder of childhood’, to model a better way and to create a world in which every child knows respect, value, love and nurture not for what they can do, but for who they are.

The book is published by Plough Publishing House, ISBN 978 0 87486 612 4

 

 

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