Essay Stop Train Save Child

For other uses, see Save the Children (disambiguation).

Founded15 April 1919; 98 years ago (1919-04-15)
FounderEglantyne Jebb
Dorothy Buxton
TypeRegistered company limited by guarantee[1]
Registration no.England & Wales 213890
EIN: 06-0726487
  • International HQ: St Vincent House, 30 Orange Street, London WC2H 7HH, UK
    UK HQ: 1 St John's Lane, London, EC1M 4AR, UK
    US HQ: 501 Kings Highway, Suite 400; Fairfield, Conn. 06825, US
OriginsLondon, England, UK

Area served


The Save the Children Fund,[2] commonly known as Save the Children, is an international non-governmental organisation that promotes children's rights, provides relief and helps support children in developing countries.[3] It was established in the United Kingdom in 1919 in order to improve the lives of children through better education, health care, and economic opportunities, as well as providing emergency aid in natural disasters, war, and other conflicts.

In addition to the UK organisation, there are 29 other national Save the Children organisations who are members of the Save the Children Alliance, a global network of nonprofit organisations supporting local partners and Save the Children International in more than 120 countries around the world. Further, Save the Children has been involved in other initiatives through partners such as Bernard Arnault Africa Relief (BAAR International), which has operations in various parts of Kenya such as Elgeyo Marakwet, Kajiado, Homa Bay, Narok, Makueni and Machakos, as well as Southern Sudan.

The organisation promotes policy changes in order to gain more rights for young people[4] especially by enforcing the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Alliance members co-ordinate emergency-relief efforts, helping to protect children from the effects of war and violence.[3] Save the Children has general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. In 2016, former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was appointed Chief Executive.


The Save the Children Fund was founded in London, England, on 15 April 1919 by Eglantyne Jebb and her sister Dorothy Buxton as an effort to alleviate starvation of children in Germany and Austria-Hungary during the Allied blockade of Germany of World War I which continued after the Armistice.[5]

The Fight the Famine Council was initially started earlier in 1919 in order to put political pressure on the British government to end the blockade, the first meeting having been held at the home of Catherine Courtney, at 15 Cheyne Walk. However, on 15 April 1919, the sisters succeeded in separating itself from the politics of the Council and creating a separate "Save the Children Fund".[5]

In May 1919, the Fund was publicly established at a meeting in London's Royal Albert Hall in order to "provide relief to children suffering the effects of war" and raise money for emergency aid to children suffering from the wartime shortages of food and supplies.[6][7]

In December 1919, Pope Benedict XV publicly announced his support for Save the Children, and declared 28 December 'Innocents Day' in order to collect donations[8]

The first branch was opened in Fife, Scotland in 1919. A counterpart, Rädda Barnen (which means "Save the Children"), was founded later that year in Sweden. Along with a number of other organisations, they founded the International Save the Children Union in Geneva on 6 January 1920. Jebb built up excellent relationships with other Geneva-based organisations, including the Red Cross who supported Save's International foundation.[5]

Jebb used many ground-breaking fund-raising techniques, making Save the Children the first charity in the United Kingdom to use page-length advertisements in newspapers. Jebb contracted doctors, lawyers and other professionals in order to devise mass advertisement campaigns. In 1920, Save the Children started individual child sponsorship as a way to engage more donors. By the end of the year, Save the Children raised the equivalent to about £8,000,000 in today's money.[8]

Russian famine[edit]

By August 1921, the UK Save the Children had raised over £1,000,000, and conditions for children in Central Europe were improving due to their efforts. However, the Russian famine of 1921 made Jebb realise that Save the Children must be a permanent organisation and that children's rights constantly need to be protected.[9] Their mission was thus changed to "an international effort to preserve child life wherever it is menaced by conditions of economic hardship and distress".[8]

From 1921 to 1923, Save the Children created press campaigns, propaganda movies and feeding centres in Russia and in Turkey in order to feed and educate thousands of refugees. They began to work with several other organisations such as the Russian Famine Relief Fund and Nansen which resulted in recognition by the League of Nations. Although Russia was largely closed off to international relief and aid, Save the Children persuaded Soviet authorities to let them have a ground presence.[5]

At home, the Daily Express criticised the Fund's work, denying the severity of the situation and arguing they should be helping their own people before helping Russia. The charity responded with increased publicity about the famine, showing images of starving children and mass graves. The campaign gained national appeal, eventually allowing the organisation to charter the SS Torcello to Russia with 600 tons' worth of relief supplies. Over 157 million rations were given out, saving nearly 300,000 children. Improved conditions meant Save the Children's Russian feeding program was able to be closed in the summer of 1923, after having won international acclaim.[5][10]

Second World War[edit]

At the end of World War II, images of malnourished and sick children ran throughout Europe. Jebb and her sister worked to gain public sympathy in order to elicit support aid.[11] Save the Children staff were among the first into the liberated areas after World War II, working with refugee children and displaced persons in former occupied Europe, including survivors of Nazi concentration camps. At the same time, work in the United Kingdom focused on improving conditions for children growing up in cities devastated by bombing and facing huge disruptions in family life.[8]

Continuing crises[edit]

The 1950s saw a continuation of this type of crisis-driven work, with additional demands for help following the Korean War and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, but also the opening of new work in Africa, Asia and the Middle East in response to the decline of the British empire.[8]

Like other aid agencies, Save the Children was active in the major disasters of the era—especially the Vietnam War and the Biafra secession in Nigeria. The latter brought shocking images of child starvation onto the television screens of the West for the first time in a major way. The sort of mass-marketing campaigns first used by Save the Children in the 1920s were repeated, with great success in fundraising.

Disasters in Ethiopia, Sudan, and many other world hotspots led to appeals which brought public donations on a huge scale, and a consequent expansion of the organisation's work. However, the children's rights-based approach to development originated by Jebb continues to be an important factor. It was used in a major campaign in the late 1990s against the use of child soldiers in Africa.[8]

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, new cases outnumber the available hospital beds in the country. Save the Children is working with the UK government's Department for International Development and Ministry of Defence to build and run a 100-bed treatment centre in Sierra Leone, as well as supporting an Interim Care Center in Kailahun for children who have lost their families to Ebola.[12]

Declaration of the Rights of the Child[edit]

In 1923, Jebb wrote: "I believe we should claim certain rights for the children and labour for their universal recognition, so that everybody--not merely the small number of people who are in a position to contribute to relief funds, but everybody who in any way comes into contact with children, that is to say the vast majority of mankind--may be in a position to help forward the movement."[13]

Jebb created an initial draft for what would become the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1923. It contained the following five criteria:

  1. The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
  2. The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succored.
  3. The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
  4. The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
  5. The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.[5]

These five points were adopted by the League of Nations in 1924 and was thus known as the Declaration of Geneva. This was the first important assertion of the rights of children as separate from adults, and began the process that would lead to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations in 1989.[5]

Convention on the Rights of the Child[edit]

Following the atrocities of World War II, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. However, many felt the rights of children needed to be addressed in further detail with a separate document.

In November 1959, the UN General Assembly altered Jebb's initial criteria in order to produce the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. This consisted of ten non-binding principles for states to follow in order to work in the best interests of the child. However, this 1959 declaration was not legally binding and was only a statement of general principles and intent.[14] In 1989, however, it was adopted by the UN General Assembly. On 2 September 1990 it became international law.[14]

The Convention consists of 54 articles that address the basic human rights that all children are entitled to: the right to survival; development to the fullest; protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and full participation in family, cultural and social life.[14] The four core principles of the convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.

Today, the Convention serves as the basis for all of Save the Children's work. It has been ratified in every country around the world, with the exception of the United States.[15]


Rewrite the Future[edit]

Rewrite the Future is Save the Children's first global campaign involving all 28 members of the Save the Children Alliance. Beginning in 2006, the campaign focuses on obtaining equal and quality education for children who are unable to attend school due to conflict or war. The campaign is focused in 28 states where armed conflict is particularly relevant including Afghanistan, Angola, Colombia, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Indonesia, Liberia, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Uganda.[16]

In 2008, Save the Children surpassed its goal of improving educational standards for eight million children by reaching over 10 million.

Every One Campaign[edit]

The Every One Campaign was started in October 2009 as a result of the Millennium Development Goals created in 2000. The fourth goal aims to reduce the child mortality rate by two-thirds by 2015. Save the Children is working to achieve this goal through their Every One Campaign and their seven step program stating:[17]

  1. Implement credible national plans
  2. Focus on newborn babies
  3. Prioritize equally
  4. Mobilize additional resources
  5. Train and deploy more health care workers
  6. Tackle malnutrition
  7. Increase focus on children during emergencies

Every Beat Matters[edit]

The Every Beat Matters campaign, started in August 2012,[18] aims to end preventable child deaths. Every year, more than 7 million children die before their 5th birthday, largely due to preventable and treatable causes like pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.[19] As part of the campaign, OneRepublic created the new song "Feel Again". Lead singer Ryan Tedder was inspired to write the song by listening to heartbeats of children in need in remote villages in Malawi and Guatemala.[20] Proceeds from the sale of "Feel Again" on iTunes[21] will benefit Save the Children, which trains frontline health workers to save children's lives around the world. In developing countries, frontline health workers are often the only link to health care for children who live beyond the reach of hospitals and clinics. They can provide a range of proven, lifesaving services including maternal and newborn care, child health, and management of chronic and communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, AIDS and diabetes. Yet according to the World Health Organization, there is a global shortage of at least one million frontline health workers.[22]

If London Were Syria[edit]

Main article: If London Were Syria

In 2014 to mark the three-year anniversary of the Syrian civil war Save the Children released a campaign video about what life would be like for British kids if a civil war erupted in London.[23] The video reached over 20 million views in less than a week.[24] The ad has been described as "powerful"[25] and "unsettling".[26]

Samantha Cameron is an ambassador for the charity Save the Children. Her husband, David Cameron, has resisted calls for the United Kingdom to accept more refugees from Syria. In March 2013, Samantha Cameron said: "As a mother, it is horrifying to hear the harrowing stories from the children I met today, no child should ever experience what they have. With every day that passes, more children and parents are being killed, more innocent childhoods are being smashed to pieces."[27][28]

Structure and accountability[edit]

Save the Children is an international umbrella organisation, with 30 national organisations serving over 120 countries.[29]

All members of the alliance are bound by the International Save the Children Alliance Bylaws which includes The Child Protection Protocol and Code of Conduct. These set a standard for common values, principles, and beliefs.[30]

The Save the Children website states that the member organisations work towards achieving four key initiatives:

  1. Secure quality education for 8 million children affected by armed conflict.
  2. Expand and improve their presence in countries of strategic importance.
  3. Create a stronger voice for children where more than one member has programmes by integrating country operations.
  4. Become the emergency response agency for children worldwide by improving disaster preparedness and response capacity so that they can best deliver immediate and lasting improvements to children.

Connections with other organisations[edit]

Save the Children helps to fund, and is aided with funds raised by, the British will-making scheme Will Aid, in which participating solicitors waive their usual fee to write a basic will and in exchange invite the client to donate to charity.[31] Save the Children collaborates with other NGOs in Family Tracing and Reunification.[32]


The Save the Children Fund film[edit]

Main article: The Save the Children Fund Film

In 1969, Save the Children UK commissioned film director Ken Loach and producer Tony Garnett to make The Save the Children Fund Film.[33] The resulting film was unacceptable to the organisation because they felt it presented their work in an unfavourable light.[34] Eventually a legal agreement was arrived at which involved the material being deposited in the National Film Archive.[34][35] In 2011, roughly 42 years later, it was shown to the public for the first time in decades.[34][36]

Expulsion from Pakistan[edit]

See also: CIA transnational health and economic activities

In July 2011, a fake vaccination program by the CIA was unmasked.[37] It then emerged that Dr. Shakil Afridi, the person organising the CIA's "vaccinations", had claimed that he was a Save the Children employee. In May 2012, Save the Children's country director for Pakistan, David Wright, revealed that the organisation's work had been badly disrupted ever since Afridi had made his claim, with medicines held up for long periods at airports, staff unable to get visas, and so forth. Wright also charged that the CIA had breached international humanitarian law and risked the safety of aid groups worldwide.[38] "It was a setback, no doubt," said Dr. Elias Durry, the World Health Organization's polio coordinator for Pakistan, a few months later.[39] Later that year, in September, it was reported that the Pakistani government had requested Save the Children's foreign staff to leave the country,[40] In January 2013, the Deans of twelve top US schools of public health sent a letter to President Obama protesting against the entanglement of intelligence operations in public health campaigns. The letter describes the negative and lasting impacts of the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) use of a fake vaccination campaign in Pakistan during the hunt for Osama bin Laden in 2011, which exacerbated the already persistent public mistrust of vaccines in the country.[41]

The CIA's "vaccination program" sparked a series of deadly attacks in Pakistan against dozens of aid and health workers associated with polio eradication campaigns, with the UN-backed polio-vaccination drive repeatedly halted as a result.[42][43][44] In May 2014, the Obama administration announced that they would no longer use vaccination programs as a cover for CIA activities.[44]

Pakistani investigators said in a July 2012 report that Dr. Shakil Afridi met 25 times with "foreign secret agents, received instructions and provided sensitive information to them."[45] According to a early draft of a Pakistan Government report, which has not been publicly released, Afridi told investigators that the charity Save the Children helped facilitate his meeting with US intelligence agents although the charity denies the charge. The report alleges that Save the Children's Pakistan director at the time of the incident introduced Afridi to a western woman in Islamabad and that Afridi and the woman met regularly afterwards.[46][47][48]

The claim that the Save the Children Country Director had introduced Afridi to the woman is not credible, as the Country Director concerned had left Pakistan permanently well before the alleged meeting took place. The allegation does not appear in subsequent drafts of the report, although the document has still not been publicly released.

On 11 June 2015, Pakistani authorities ordered all Save the Children workers to leave Pakistan within 15 days, and the organisation's office in Islamabad was closed and padlocked.[49]

Award to Tony Blair by heads of Save the Children USA[edit]

In 2014, Tony Blair was given Save the Children's Global Legacy Award by the leadership of the US arm of the charity at a gala dinner in New York.[50] A furious protest letter condemning the award was signed by over 500 Save the Children staff, who said it was "morally reprehensible" and jeopardised the organisation's credibility.[51][52] The episode raised questions about the links between those who had given the award and those close to Blair.[53]

Executive quits after women's complaints of 'inappropriate behaviour'[edit]

In November 2015, Mail Online reported that Chief strategist Brendan Cox resigned in September over allegations of ‘inappropriate behaviour’. Mr Cox, who was the director of policy and advocacy, left after women members of staff made complaints about him.[54]

Cox had previously denied any wrongdoing but finally admitted to inappropriate behaviour in 18 February 2018 and quit working for his two other charities.[55][56]

Charity boss Justin Forsyth resigns from Unicef[edit]

On 22 February 2018 former Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth resigned from UNICEF] to avoid "damage" to the charities. Three complaints of inappropriate behaviour were made to Mr. Forsyth whilst he worked at Save the Children.[57]

Jalalabad terror attack[edit]

Main article: 2018 Save The Children Jalalabad attack

On 24 January 2018, militants affiliated with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province launched a bomb and gun attack on a Save the Children office in Jalalabad, a city in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, killing six people and injuring 27.[58][59]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Save the Children website
  2. ^"Register Home Page". Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  3. ^ abAbout UsArchived 20 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Save the Children.
  4. ^Nault, 2003, p. 4.
  5. ^ abcdefgYates 2011
  6. ^Nault, pg. 6 2003
  7. ^"CalmView: Overview". Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  8. ^ abcdefHistoryArchived 15 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine.. Save the Children.
  9. ^Nault, pg. 7 2003
  10. ^Breen, Rodney (1994). "Saving Enemy Children: Save the Children's Russian Relief Organisation, 1921-1923". Disasters 18 (3), 221–237.
  11. ^Hyder, pg. 2 2005
  12. ^Uenuma, Francine. "Desperate Demand for Ebola Treatment in Sierra Leone; Five People Infected Every Hour". Retrieved 1 October 2014. 
  13. ^Hyder, pg. 3 2005
  14. ^ abcUNICEF 2008
  15. ^"There's Only One Country That Hasn't Ratified the Convention on Children's Rights: US". Retrieved 16 August 2016. 
  16. ^Rewrite the FutureArchived 20 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Save the Children.
  17. ^Every OneArchived 20 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Save the Children.
  18. ^"OneRepublic's New Single to Benefit Save the Children's Every Beat Matters Campaign". Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  19. ^WHO | Children: reducing mortality. Retrieved on 25 August 2013.
  20. ^OneRepublic Donate New Single Proceeds To Save The Children « New York’s 92.3 NOWArchived 18 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine.. (23 August 2012). Retrieved on 2013-08-25.
  21. ^iTunes Store. Retrieved on 25 August 2013.
  22. ^
  23. ^"If London were Syria: Save The Children campaign releases unsettling video". The Independent. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  24. ^"Charity video turning London into Syria goes viral". Rappler. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  25. ^"Powerful video ad aims to create a connection to Syrian conflict". Yahoo News. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  26. ^"Unsettling Save the Children video asks, 'What if London were Syria?'". 5 March 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  27. ^"David Cameron: Taking more and more refugees not answer". 2 September 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2017 – via 
  28. ^"Samantha Cameron shocked by Syrian children's stories in Lebanon". Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  29. ^"Where we work". Save the Children International. Retrieved 11 June 2015. 
  30. ^Our StructureArchived 20 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine.. Save the Children.
  31. ^Will AidArchived 20 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  32. ^"Inter-agency Guiding Principles on UNACCOMPANIED and SEPARATED CHILDREN"(PDF). International Committee of the Red Cross. Jan 2004. 
  33. ^Banned Ken Loach charity documentary Save The Children Fund to be shown after 42 years | Mail Online. (21 August 2011). Retrieved on 2013-08-25.
  34. ^ abc"BFI launches Ken Loach Project with world premiere of his Save The Children film...42 years after it was made"(PDF). FOCAL International. 22 August 2011. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  35. ^Bradshaw, Peter (1 September 2011). "Ken Loach's Save the Children: the film that bit the hand that fed it". Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  36. ^Smith, Neil (23 August 2011). "Banned Ken Loach charity film gets rare airing". Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  37. ^Shah, Saeed (11 July 2011). "CIA organised fake vaccination drive to get Osama bin Laden's family DNA". Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  38. ^Crilly, Rob (3 May 2012). "Save the Children Pakistan chief under pressure after 'fake CIA vaccination' campaign". Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  39. ^McNeil, Donald G. (9 July 2012). "C.I.A. Vaccine Ruse May Have Harmed the War on Polio". Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  40. ^"Save the Children foreign staff ordered out of Pakistan". BBC News. 6 September 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  41. ^"CIA Vaccination Cover in Pakistan". Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  42. ^Khan, Jamal (19 December 2012). "UN suspends polio drive in Pakistan after killings". Associated Press. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  43. ^Khan, Riaz; Toosi, Nahal (28 May 2013). "Pakistan polio vaccination suspended after killing". Associated Press. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  44. ^ ab"U.S. Cites End to C.I.A. Ruses Using Vaccines". 20 May 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  45. ^Leiby, Richard (26 July 2012). "Pakistan recounts in new report how doctor helped U.S. in bin Laden operation". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  46. ^Boone, Jon (5 September 2012). "Pakistan orders Save the Children foreign workers to leave". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 September 2012. 
  47. ^"Save the Children foreign staff told to leave Pakistan". Retrieved 27 June 2017. 
  48. ^"Save the Children foreign staff ordered out of Pakistan". BBC News. 
  49. ^Boone, Jon (12 June 2015). "Pakistan shuts down Save the Children offices in Islamabad". The Guardian. Islamabad. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  50. ^Molloy, Antonia (20 November 2014). "Tony Blair honoured with Save The Children's Global Legacy Award at charity gala attended by Ben Affleck and Lassie". Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  51. ^Sherwood, Harriet (25 November 2014). "Save the Children staff furious over 'global legacy' award for Tony Blair". Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  52. ^Sherwood, Harriet (28 November 2014). "Save the Children boss 'disappointed' over Tony Blair award row". Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  53. ^Selby, Jenn (27 November 2014). "David Cameron mocks Tony Blair for his Save the Children 'Global Legacy' award". Retrieved 30 November 2014. 
  54. ^"New charity scandal as Save The Children executive quits after women's complaints of 'inappropriate behaviour'". Retrieved 1 November 2015. 
  55. ^"Murdered MP's widower Brendan Cox quits charities". BBC News. 18 February 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
  56. ^Cooney, Rebecca (19 February 2018). "Brendan Cox resigns as trustee of the Jo Cox Foundation". Third Sector. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
  57. ^"Charity boss Justin Forsyth resigns from Unicef". Retrieved 22 February 2018. 
  58. ^Reuters (2018-01-24). "Gunmen Storm Save the Children Aid Group Office in Afghanistan". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-02-04. 
  59. ^The Associated Press (2018-01-24). "Militants Attack Afghan Offices of Children's NGO, Killing 4". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-02-04. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Lynda Mahood, Vic Satzewich, "The Save the Children Fund and the Russian Famine of 1921–23: Claims and Counter-Claims about Feeding 'Bolshevik' Children," Journal of Historical Sociology, 22,1 (2009), 55–83.
  • Clare Mulley, "The Woman Who Saved the Children: A biography of Eglantyne Jebb, Founder of Save the Children" (Oneworld Publications, 2009) ISBN 9781851686575
  • Rory O'Keeffe The Toss of a Coin: 'voices from a modern crisis'. Hygge Media. 22 September 2015. ISBN 9780993272905. 

External links[

There are many terrible children's programs through which parents must suffer during their child's young life. For every Sesame Street, there is an annoying Caillou or an acid-trippy Yo Gabba Gabba. But Thomas and Friends is – or was – the one show with enough subversive messages to make me turn it off for good.

My son, now three-and-a-half years old, thankfully never never went through a manic train fascination like so many other children. But once in a while, he'd get a bug in his brain to watch Thomas, and every time I sat and watched with him, I winced and groaned almost as much as Percy.

When I heard the news this week, that the voice actor behind Thomas's incessant whinging quit the series because he was underpaid, I remembered all of the reasons that I cut my kid off from the show in the first place.

Thomas and those friends are trains that toil away endlessly on the Isle of Sodor – which seems to be forever caught in British colonial times – and, on its surface, the show seems to impart good moral lessons about hard work and friendship. But if you look through the steam rising up from the coal-powered train stacks, you realize that the pretty puffs of smoke are concealing some pretty twisted, anachronistic messages.

For one, these trains perform tasks dictated by their imperious, little white boss, Sir Topham Hatt (also known as The Fat Controller), whose attire of a top hat, tuxedo and big round belly is just a little too obvious. Basically, he's the Monopoly dictator of their funky little island. Hatt orders the trains to do everything from hauling freight to carrying passengers to running whatever random errand he wants done, whenever he wants it done – regardless of their pre-existing schedules.

Inevitably, the trains get in a fight with or pick on one another (or generally mess up whatever job they are supposed to be doing) until Hatt has to scold one of them about being a "really useful engine", because their sole utility in life is their ability to satisfy his whims. Yeah, because I want to teach my kid to admire a controlling autocrat.

But there was one particular episode that caused me to put the brakes on Thomas for good. It revolved around James, a red engine who is described in the opening credits as "vain but lots of fun." (Wait, it's OK to be vain if you can show others a good time occasionally? Great – that's going in my Parenting 101 book.) In the episode "Tickled Pink", poor vain James, is ordered by Topham Hat to get a new coat of paint. But while James has only had an undercoat of pink slathered on, Topham Hatt interrupts and demands that James go pick up Hatt's granddaughter and deliver her and her friends to a birthday party right now.

James is mortified that he has to travel while pink and proceeds to hide from all the other trains along the way. When he's caught, the other trains – including Thomas – viciously laugh and mock him.

"What are you doing James? You're a big pink steamie," says Diesel, the bad-boy engine. (For the record, all the "villains" on Thomas and Friends are the dirty diesel engines. I'd like to think there was a good environmental message in there, but when the good engines pump out white smoke and the bad engines pump out black smoke – and they are all pumping out smoke – it's not hard to make the leap into the race territory.)

But once James gets back on the rails and picks up Granddaughter Hatt and her friends, all seemingly ends well because the girls love pink.

Well guess what? It's not OK. You think a little boy watching Thomas is going to file away the lesson that pink is OK for boys? No, what kids remember is that James was laughed at, cruelly, over and over again, because he looked different and was clad in a "girly" pink color.

And that's not even to get started on the female trains. Well, actually it's hard to get started on them, because they barely exist. Take a quick scan of the more than 100 trains and characters in the Thomas universe – it spans multiple books, toys and continents in addition to a TV show – and you can quickly count on two hands the number of lady trains that populate is Isle of Sodor. Emily – the only lady train to get name checked in the opening credits and the only one who regularly hangs out with the boy trains – is said to "know her stuff." That's the sole description of her personality. What does that even mean?

Last year, the British Labour shadow Transportation Secretary even called out Thomas for its lack of females, saying that the franchise setting a bad example for girl wannabe train engineers everywhere.

At first blush, Thomas and his friends seem rather placid and mild. And there are certainly a lot worse shows in terms of in-your-face violence, sexism, racism and classism. But looks can be deceiving: the constant bent of messages about friendship, work, class, gender and race sends my kid the absolute wrong message.

And really, that theme song makes me scream. Thomas can just go bust my buffers.


• 'I feel so bullied': Voice of Thomas the Tank Engine on why he's been 'silenced'

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