Books about Children and Parenting
Liberation's Children: Parents
and Kids in a Postmodern Age by Kay S. Hymowitz Ivan R. Dee
Liberation's Children and Kay Hymowitz's earlier book, Ready or
Not: What Happens When We Treat Small Children As Adults, are both social
criticism; social criticism that seems to emanate out of a deep concern
for children that causes, even necessitates that the author carefully
examine our culture. Her
concern is allied with deep insight and she looks through the academic and
social life of children to focus on who they are, their innermost selves.
She argues that our society offers little depth or meaning to the
generations to come and dilutes what children might otherwise grow up to
Liberation's Children is a collection
of essays that deserves to be knit together into the fabric of a book. The
first essay, Fear and Loathing at the Day Care Center, follows the
politics of research on day care. The
author contends that many interests hold day care as a societal good even
though most parents would prefer family leave and other options that would
allow them to be with their children.
The author points out that even now most mothers are either at home
with their children or working only part time. Day care, to the author, is
really vocational school. It's
the first step towards a job and in a culture of "ecstatic
capitalism" our job is what defines us as human beings, that and our
sexuality. Feminists also
support day care and the workplace as the place for women and attack any
research showing deleterious effects on children while most of the
researchers themselves apologize or explain away those same negative
effects. Hymowitz quotes the
psychologist Edward Zigler's admission that, "Our job isn't to
dissuade mothers from using child care by sending up these horror stories.
Our real task is to do a public education campaign with parents to get
quality care." This among other arguments supports Hymowitz's
contention that much of the research community backs day care as an
established good. Day care, however, is good for neither children or
parents. Kay Hymowitz states, "There is an emptiness in the soul of
woman under ecstatic capitalism."
Referring to day care as "collective care" she sites
Bruno Bettleheim's studies on collective care on a kibbutz where all the
infants were fed exactly the same as it was assumed they were all
identical. Similar studies of Chinese nurseries found that the babies
moved their bowels in unison. Hymowitz
feels individuals require individual attention, "… the experience
of self-hood finds continual reinforcement from family members who affirm
the child as an individual like no other. Collective care, by its very
definition, cannot do this."
Her next essay parodies the competition
between parents trying to get their toddlers into the brand name
preschools in Manhattan. In
it she quotes the sociologist William Doherty who feels childrearing has
declined to "parenting as product development." Americans pays
too much attention to the child-product, how bright they are, how to
forward their education (career) and come to know and judge children
merely through what they achieve. Hymowitz would agree with the anonymous
quotation that goes, "About all some parents accomplish in life is to
send a child to Harvard."
The essay, Sesame Street: It's All
Show, points out that the producer decided to use the tactics used in
commercials to create a television show for children. The show, like a
commercial, merely keeps the child's attention.
It projects no meaning or guidance as to what life is about except
to portrayal of life as separate infobits, as glib entertainment.
Hymowitz is again convincing.
"Sesame street is a triumph of appearance over
substance." Schools, in
another essay, in the matter of fact way in which they teach sex
education, also impart knowledge without substance or meaning.
Love, affection, and tenderness are not a part of the educational
portrayal of sex. The author
describes a AIDS prevention program that issued flashcards to students who
were supposed to arrange them in the correct order (an example of the
"robotization" of sex). The
one labeled "Talk with Partner" was to go first.
Another card of equal size to be placed last said, "Throw
Condom Out." Older feminists also sterilize sex or as a younger
feminist Katherine March who is quoted in the book puts it, "Sex is
an easily obtained, feminist-approved goal. One that carries less stigma
than admitting to loneliness or desperately wanting emotional connection
with a man."
Raising children for an Uncivil Society
finds more evidence that our children live in a medium without meaning.
Some experts assert that young children have an innate moral sense
perhaps hinting that we need not pass on morals to them.
Carol Gilligan, the noted psychologist and author of In a Different
Voice, likes girls who "refuse to take no for an answer."
Gilligan, the author argues well, like the larger society, has one
moral principle, the self. "The capacity for these eight-year-olds to be openly
angry--to be really mad--to be disruptive and resistant gives them an air
of unedited authority and authenticity" says Gilligan. This is a
statement the author feels displays a lack of respect for the larger
context of the community, the classroom in this case, and a respect for
the individual's, even a child's, momentary emotionality.
The next essay continues the theme.
Schools, under attack by the legal system, are setting more rules
and acting more and more like legal systems.
This strips adults of their better role as leaders who project
moral identities and appoints them as bureaucrats who merely administer
Tweens: ten going on sixteen finds
parents to blame for the media's power over children and their provocative
dress and attitudes. The book
quotes the director of adolescent and young adult medicine at the
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert L. Johnson,
"Kids wear sexually provocative cloths at nine because their parents
buy them provocative cloths not because of their hormones." The
authors inquiries lead her to say that, "The one theme that comes
through loud and clear in talking with educators and therapists, it's the
blind leading the blind," and without parents to lead children their
peers quickly respond to fill in the gap. Gilligan again is called to task
for her assertion that parents and teachers are "silencing"
girls and that girls are subject to a "tyranny of the nice and the
kind." Hymowitz finds this tragic.
Gilligan wants girls to be self-assertive but to have getting your
own way as a central meaning to one's life is to miniaturize human beings.
Life can be lived and children can grow larger than that.
Gilligan, schools and parents provide no larger context for life
than the self.
In her essay What's Wrong with Kids,
the author is really asking what is wrong with adults as she explores
several recent tragedies such as Columbine.
Her answer goes to a lack of moral leadership in parents.
Today's adults have no firm moral constructs of their own and
cannot, therefore, impart them to children. This causes parents to become
friends and "When adults turn into friends, childhood must
disappear." Experts extol parents to keep the lines of communication
open and maintain a good relationship with the kids but does that reflect
any profound connection or influence with them.
She closes the essay with: