“One major theme in A Christmas Carol was rooted in Charles Dickens’ observations of the plight of the children of London’s poor. In 1839 it was estimated that nearly half of all funerals in London were for children under the age of ten. Those who survived grew up without education or resource and virtually no chance to escape the cycle of poverty. Dickens felt that this cycle of poverty could only be broken through education.” (Perdue)
“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”
“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”
“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.”
“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here. What then? If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.
(The Spirit of Christmas Present then asks the question at the heart of the attitude of the so-called Christian legislators and general public of Scrooge’s era who chose to either ignore the children of others or to determine which children “deserve” to receive food, healthcare and education. Bob Cratchit’s son, Tim, would heal, be cured and flourish with healthcare, nourishment and education.)
“Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child.”
Scrooge bent before the Ghost’s rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes upon the ground.
Dickens supported the idea of free, public education for the poor throughout his career, but mandatory, free, public education for all children was not instituted in England until 1870, the year Dickens died. Years later, healthcare was provided by employers. Because of Dickens and other activists, the British government created laws mandating the behavior and practices of corporations and businesses to provide these essentials.
We have come a great way since 1843, and not all of it has been forward. We need to re-learn one basic humane truth. No one, absolutely no one, has the right to determine what child is “deserving” of adequate food, healthcare and education.
Cutting unemployment payments as part of the austerity demands of our U.S. Congress takes food from the children of unemployed Americans. Their poverty level, lack of healthcare, and lack of adequate nutrition will cause millions of our children to become the failures of mandated high stakes testing. Read HERE.
Our stock market as measured by the U.S. Stock Exchange, not the British Exchange where Scrooge profited, is at record high levels. Read HERE. There is no reason in the world for the cuts and the austerity in today’s America. Reason is lacking. Only corruption and corporate greed remain as causes of this cruel legislation.
We must reclaim reform. Our children have suffered enough.
(Read all of the actual novel, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, free HERE.)