Forum Examines 'Children at Risk'

A Radcliffe symposium Saturday explored social problems affecting American children, including a lack of individual attention and social stratification.

About 50 students and five public policy experts participated in a Lyman Common Room symposium entitled "Children at Risk," the first of a two-part series on the link between public policy and public service.

Assistant Dean of Radcliffe Rosa B. Shinagel, the conference organizer, said she hoped the conference would highlight the personal and academic importance of public service.

"When I was a master [of Quincy House], my favorite undergraduates were the undergraduates doing public service, and I learned why--because they always kept themselves in perspective," Shinagel said.

Visiting academic and public policy experts led panel discussions and gave speeches on practical remedies, both on policy change and on individual service.

They addressed such problems as youth gangs, high school dropouts, academic tracking, and immigrant programs.

Stephen Brion-Meisels, coordinator of Dropout Prevention for Cambridge, said the while city schools have become more racially balanced, issues of economic class stratification still exist.

"The friendships I've seen in elementary schools cross race very easily," Brion-Meisels said. "They do not cross class easily."

Felton Earls, professor of human behavior and development at the School of Public Health and professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, said that problems caused by monetary poverty are often exacerbated by "time poverty."

"How many hours does it take to raise a child? It takes an instant to produce it," he said, "but that instant is immediately translated into a responsibility for parents and government."

Some panelists recounted their own experiences in public service.

Linda Yanez, who heads President Clinton's immigration report team, said much of her work has been on a personal level.

"My class action suits have affected hundreds of thousands with one stroke," Yanez said, "but my real work has been one to one--the individuals I work with on a day-to-day basis."

And Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities Robert Coles, who authored a series on child psychology, suggested possible psychological, suggested possible psychological motives for public service.

"We need not only to strut, to achieve, to get in, to get, but to be part of a community, to know what love is," Coles added