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

Overview

One out of five children, and one out of two single mothers, lives in destitution in America 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 issue, and how can public policy fail to take responsibility for the consequences of our politics of distribution? Written by a committed child advocate, Lives on the Edge draws on social, ...

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Overview

One out of five children, and one out of two single mothers, lives in destitution in America 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 issue, and how can public policy fail to take responsibility for the consequences of our politics of distribution? Written by a committed child advocate, Lives on the Edge draws on social, historical, feminist, and public policy perspectives to develop an informed, wide-ranging critique of American educational and social policy. Stark, penetrating, and unflinching in its first-hand portraits of single mothers in America today, this work challenges basic myths about justice and democracy.

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Carroll
Like the work of Kozol, Katz, and Hacker, "Lives on the Edge" is an angry book, a passionate analysis of and attack upon the "feminization" and "infantilization" of poverty in the U.S. Polakow first addresses historical notions of the undeserving poor and traces the "discourse of otherness" by which Western culture has justified discrimination against and lack of concern for single mothers and their children (as well as other groups defined by distinctions of race, class, gender, and age). Then she offers portraits of particular mothers and children, based on interviews and classroom observations in Michigan between 1989 and 1991. In her demand for universal health care, affordable housing, child allowances and maternity/parental leave, a national child-care system, and a pedagogy of equity--programs viewed as entitlements in every other industrialized nation--Polakow insists that "constructed inequity" in the U.S. "has been made by public policy and can be "unmade" by public policy." Polakow's book is particularly valuable for its insights into the consequences of discriminatory labor and housing markets, inadequate child-care resources, punitive welfare "reforms," and "children at risk" pedagogy for the 20 percent of U.S. children and 50 percent of single mothers that she describes as "stand[ing] alone on the margins of democracy."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226671833
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/1993
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.35 (w) x 9.27 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Table of Contents

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

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