Lives on the Edge: Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America

Overview

Lives on the Edge offers a penetrating, deeply disturbing look into the other America inhabited by single mothers and their children. Its powerful and moving portraits force us to confront the poverty, destitution, and struggle for survival that await single mothers in one of the richest nations in the world. One in five children and one in two single mothers live in destitution today. The feminization and "infantilization" of poverty have made the United States one of the most dangerous democracies for poor ...
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Overview

Lives on the Edge offers a penetrating, deeply disturbing look into the other America inhabited by single mothers and their children. Its powerful and moving portraits force us to confront the poverty, destitution, and struggle for survival that await single mothers in one of the richest nations in the world. One in five children and one in two single mothers live in destitution today. The feminization and "infantilization" of poverty have made the United States one of the most dangerous democracies for poor mothers and their children to inhabit. Why then, Valerie Polakow asks, is poverty seen as a private affair - "their problem, not ours" - and how can public policy fail to take responsibility for the consequences of our politics of distribution? Searching for an answer, Polakow considers the historical and ideological sources for society's attitudes toward single mothers and their children, and shows how our dominant images of "normal" families and motherhood have shaped our perceptions, practices, and public policies. Polakow's account traces the historical legacy of discrimination against the "dangerous classes" and the "undeserving poor" - a legacy that culminates in the current public hostility towards welfare recipients. Polakow moves beyond the cold voice of statistics to take us into the daily lives of single mothers and their children. The stories of young black teenage mothers, of white single mothers, of homeless mothers are presented with clarity and quiet power. In a detailed look inside the classroom worlds of their children, Polakow explores what life is like if one is very young and poor, and consigned to otherness in the landscape of school. School is a place that matters - it is also a place where children are defined as "at risk" or "at promise." Polakow's astute analysis of poor children's pedagogy provides a critical challenge to educators. Written by an educator and committed child advocate, Lives on the Edge draws on social, historical,
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226671840
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1994
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Childhood Revisited 7
2 Motherhood and the Ideology of Care 22
3 The Other Motherhood: The Landscape of Single Mothers in Poverty 43
4 Young Mothers' Stories: Being Teenage, Black, and Single 63
5 Mothers' Stories: Contingency Continued 81
6 Inside Public Preschools: A View from Below 101
7 The Classroom Worlds of At-Risk Children: Five Portraits 131
8 Poor Children's Pedagogy: The Construction of At-Risk Students 148
9 Lives on the Edge 163
Afterword: Some Reflections on the Future 177
Appendix: Some Notes on Method 185
Notes 187
Index 213
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