Children's Rights and the Wheel of Life
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Although they make significant contributions to the world's work and well-being, often despite severe legal and economic handicaps and social victimization, people under age twenty-one and over age sixty are "excluded sectors" of the world population. While the life situation of the young and the old varies according to cultural tradition and extent of modernization, industrialization brings increasing restrictions on the young and the elderly, and a load of legal and civic responsibilities on people in the narrow 25-55 age range. The special cognitive, emphathic, and futures-creating capacities of the young and the old, each at their own kind of biosocial peak, are therefore eliminated from the social process.Boulding emphasizes two particular aspects of personhood - as something that is continually growing and differentiating throughout life, and the special androgynous qualities of the prepubertal and postmenopausal stages of life for males and females alike - that have significant implications for the creation of more humanistic, egalitarian, and peaceful societies. The capabilities of personhood and the age-graded social institutions which pattern their expression are mismatched; practices of physical as well as psychological and social abuse of the young and the old by the middle-years population is increasing in industrialized countries.The author proposes that age be introduced as a classificatory principle in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, so that rights now proclaimed for all other categories of human beings except the young and the old can also be made available to these two groups. She pleas for a realistic evaluation of the capacities and contributions to society of children, youth, and the aged, and for the involvement of these excluded sectors in civil life and social and political decision making at every level-from the local to the global.