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Promoting the Child as Citizen- Tony Earls makes the case at St. Joes

  • Thu, Feb 16 2012
    • Felton Earls

AAPSS Fellow Dr. Felton (Tony) Earls took the stage at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA, to present his research on violence, child rights, and public health.  On Wednesday, September 28, 2011, Earls spoke to a full room that included Philadelphia School District Superintendent Leroy Nunery, Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Everett Gillison, and University of Pennsylvania professor John DiIulio, the former head of the White House's office of faith-based initiatives. 

Earls’ talk was based on two large-scale research projects that, together, led to the January 2011 issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science —“The Child as Citizen.” First, he discussed his extensive research in Chicago where, between 1990 and 2005, he set out to determine how violence in the city's neighborhoods impacted children's public health outcomes. As the principal investigator for the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, Tony found, for example, that neighborhood violence was correlated with low birth rates in the same locations. Then, he spoke about the Young Citizens Program in Tanzania where he, with his wife and co-investigator Mary Carlson, applied what he had learned in Chicago to develop a comprehensive HIV/AIDS intervention in that country. They set out to empower youths to learn about and teach others about HIV/AIDS and the public health consequences of the disease. Their work in Tanzania was the first of its type to be designed as a longitudinal, randomized controlled trial.

In addition to presenting his and Mary’s findings and lessons-learned from their Young Citizens Program, Earls’ Annals volume presents the research and analyses of other, well-known scholars who have likewise dealt with child empowerment, health and citizenship issues. Using the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as their backdrop, Tony and his contributors use the research that they report on in the Annals to advocate for child rights, specifically, for the United States’ ratification of the CRC (the only country, other than Somalia, yet to ratify the convention).

“The Child as Citizen” Annals volume, along with Earls’ broader work, inspired Maria Kefalas, director of the Richard Johnson Center for Anti-Violence at Saint Joseph’s University, to ask him to speak at St. Joe's.  It took him “all of a minute,” he recounted, to accept. Applying his work to the Philadelphia context, Earls urged civil servants and residents to redouble their efforts against violence in the city. In particular, he encouraged the participation of Philadelphia youths in the effort, urging their parents, teachers, and authorities to value and honor their roles as citizens in this capacity. As he wrote in the Annals, “Children cannot thrive if their communities are not capable of providing consistent, responsive, and competent care, along with good governance and human services. Nor can communities prosper if their youngest members are not recognized as respected and active participants.”

To read more from Tony’s article, “Adolescents as Deliberative Citizens,” please visit The Annals home on SAGE Journals Online.

To listen to Tony’s presentation at Saint Joseph’s, please follow this link.