Remaining steadfast in supporting the rights and well-being of children

Dec 23, 2023

As this year comes to a close, the National Academy of Education (NAEd) reflects on the many challenges and tragic circumstances facing children and young adults worldwide at this time, especially those trapped in zones of war and conflict. In Hamas’s terrorist attack and in Israel’s military response, children’s lives have been brutally cut short while others have been critically injured; all will suffer from significant trauma. In regions of conflict around the globe, children live in conditions that not only endanger their lives but also severely disrupt their systems of support, with devastating consequences for their learning and development. We know, too, that ongoing exposure to violence and conflict can lead to long-term emotional and psychological trauma that may also be passed on intergenerationally. We note that conditions of conflict and violence in one location have ripple effects on children’s and youth’s well-being in distal communities—including the United States—in our increasingly interdependent world. We share links to resources below1 that raise awareness of the effects of conflict and trauma on children as well as beginning steps for addressing their needs. However, we acknowledge the contextual and complex historical roots underlying the circumstances threatening children and their families and thus, we recognize that such conditions must be addressed through enduring political solutions. 

In the midst of these persistent threats to children and families in Gaza and elsewhere, we must remain steadfast in valuing the rights and working to protect the well-being of children2 and their families both in our professional capacities and in our ethical responsibilities as human beings. We must not become overwhelmed by or anesthetized to the scale of suffering, or retreat to the confines of our own communities. We must actively confront anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, and other forms of group-based hate that impact people in Gaza, the United States and beyond, and work towards healthier and more productive discourse across differences in our schools, universities, and communities. We must continue to work towards a world that is just and values collective wellbeing.  

The NAEd’s ongoing work in civic reasoning and discourse is a step in this direction, as are other initiatives that will soon get underway aimed at engaging students in dialogue around the fundamental question of how we can live together. Central to this work is the cultivation of empathy, as well as a disposition to value the full epistemological and historical complexities and interdependencies of our world communities.   

1. National Association of School Psychologists 

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network 

Research, Education, and Action for Refugees Around the World – Harvard Graduate School of Education  

We especially thank Ron Avi Astor and Sarah Dryden-Peterson for their help in assembling these resources.

2. G.A. Res. 44/25, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Preamble (Nov. 20, 1989)

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