An extra-important priority

In 1789, the English poet William Blake published a moving poem about little Tom Dacre, a young boy forced to sweep chimneys. In a dream Tom has, an angel comes and frees "thousands of sweepers" just like him from their servitude—" ... and the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy, / He'd have God for his father, and never want joy." Tom wakes up happy, warmed by this divine assurance.

Today there are children who face conditions every bit as Draconian. Others are confronted with neglect or abuse. And while the modern world may be able to offer some kids a quality of life and a freedom from drudgery that the children of Blake's day could never have dreamed of, the heightened sophistication and faster pace of the 21st century threaten to devalue the innocence and inquisitiveness of youth.

September 2, 2002

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