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Michael DirdaThis is, then, a rich and stimulating book, revealing how much childhood has changed over the centuries and how much some things never change.
— The Washington Post
Revealing the harsh realities of children's lives through history-the rigors of physical labor, the fear of chronic ailments, the heartbreak of premature death-he also acknowledges the freedom children once possessed to discover their world as well as themselves. Whether at work or play, at home or school, the transition from childhood to adulthood has required generations of Americans to tackle tremendously difficult challenges. Today, adults impose ever-increasing demands on the young for self-discipline, cognitive development, and academic achievement, even as the influence of the mass media and consumer culture has grown. With a nod to the past, Mintz revisits an alternative to the goal-driven realities of contemporary childhood. An odyssey of psychological self-discovery and growth, this book suggests a vision of childhood that embraces risk and freedom-like the daring adventure on Huck's raft.
The children of the past did possess something lost to their descendants of today: freedom. Once kids were allowed to ride their bikes all over town or idle away the summer in daydreams; they could fail a course or even a grade, and no one got overly excited about it; they might even make serious mistakes and find themselves pregnant or working on the line at Ford rather than studying lines of poetry at college. But now, in our test-driven, increasingly regimented educational system, we forthrightly aim to leave no child behind, which means that we leave no child alone. Slow learners must be sped up, dreamy kids must be made to focus, all must wear uniforms, and, eventually, all must have prizes—or at least AP courses. In the past, parents might exploit their kids as little more than indentured servants or simply ignore them. Today we are their chauffeurs and social secretaries...This is, then, a rich and stimulating book, revealing how much childhood has changed over the centuries and how much some things never change...I suppose that every generation of adults tends to feel, when regarding the young people around them, that the barbarians are at the gates. But really, there's nothing for us to worry about: One day our children will have children of their own.
— Michael Dirda
[Mintz] proposes to set the record straight in his sweeping study of American childhood that effectively synthesizes a large body of scholarship on its subject. The result is an engaging, sober and often poignant account of how adults have viewed and treated children and, equally important, how children's own experiences and life chances have been heavily influenced by economics, race and ethnicity...The compelling history of childhood he offers us is a valuable reminder that nostalgia for a golden age that never existed is not just misleading, but counterproductive.
— Eric Arnesen
[A] provocative, anecdote-packed analysis of American parents and their progeny. From Puritans to postmoderns, we have shaped our kids to match shifting cultural mores and social desires.
— Char Miller
With the vast number of political and cultural decisions made in America under the guise of 'thinking of the children,' a book like Steven Mintz's brilliant Huck's Raft, which actually does offer plenty of thinking about children, is long overdue. Mintz is aiming to write nothing less than a complete history of childhood in America, tracing kids' lives from the Puritan era to today and examining the roles they've played as workers, soldiers, pioneers, inspirations, burdens, consumers and citizens.
— Matt Konrad
[An] often fascinating and massively documented exploration of four centuries of American childhood...Huck's Raft is a work of scholarly integrity and humanist zeal.
— Joyce Carol Oates
Were this simply a book of trivia about the years of childhood, it would be fascinating reading...However, this work is much more than a collection of curiosities. It is an ambitious attempt to retell the story of America with children as the focus of attention...This work of historical synthesis is likely to become a classic that future historians will be hard-pressed to surpass.
— Robert Holland
Steven Mintz' brilliant, wide-ranging, but remarkably concise study shows how complex an invention childhood has been in this country...The book is so good on the first 300 years or so of the story that it is somewhat surprising that Mintz is even more provocative on the last 50 years or so, especially on the most recent decade. It seems that no other account of Columbine or 'No Child Left Behind' has been as thoughtful or persuasive...This is history at its most instructive and engaging.
— William T. Hamilton
Steven Mintz's Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood offers an impressive and unprecedented synthesis of the relevant scholarly literature...[It] demonstrate[s] that childhood has never been a stable, innocent, or transcendent experience...Reflecting the prevailing literature, the book is a rainbow coalition of inclusion that arches over the panorama of American history. Anyone tempted to criticize the book as a 'clip job' misses the underlying importance of Mintz's signal accomplishment...To any parent trying to figure out what [kind of kid] he's got, the mundane manifestations of an innocent childhood are the clues to life. Mintz's book makes some sense out of this mystery.
— James E. McWilliams
[A] richly detailed study of how childhood in the US. has changed over time...Mintz uses history to debunk several myths—that childhood once was carefree, families were stable, and American childhood is the story of either steady progress or decline.
— Steven G. Kellman
|1||Children of the covenant||7|
|2||Red, white and black in colonial America||32|
|3||Sons and daughters of liberty||53|
|4||Inventing the middle-class child||75|
|5||Growing up in bondage||94|
|6||Childhood battles of the Civil War||118|
|8||Save the child||154|
|9||Children under the magnifying glass||185|
|10||New to the promised land||200|
|11||Revolt of modern youth||213|
|12||Coming of age in the Great depression||233|
|13||Mobilizing children for World War II||254|
|14||In pursuit of the perfect childhood||275|
|16||Parental panics and the reshaping of childhood||335|
|17||The unfinished century of the child||372|
Posted May 16, 2005
This is one of the most interesting books on childhood I have ever read. It gave me a deeper understanding of what children endured in the past, how each generation shaped the next, and how we are raising our children today. A must read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.