The Failed Century of the Child: Governing America's Young in the Twentieth Century

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Between 1900 and 2000 an unprecedented effort to use state regulation to guarantee health, opportunity, and security to America's children failed to reach its goals. This account of the period reveals that the achievements envisioned were extremely ambitious and reflected entrenched, but self-contradictory, values as well as Americans' inconsistent expectations of government. Based on extensive research, the volume analyzes the period's public policies that affected children's welfare, work, education, and health.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Failed Century of the Child is a meticulously researched and thoughtful critique...[it] reflects the author's expansive breadth of knowledge in public policy history. While most of her interpretations are consistent with existing scholarship, Sealander's study offers new insights and is among the first to provide an in-depth examination and synthesis of child welfare policy for the entire twentieth century." H-Net

"[A] passionate critique of the inadequate, contradictory, even fraudulent public policies that characterized many federal and state social welfare prgrams in the 20th century.... [A]n important, thoughtful, and provocative contribution to the histories of childhood and social work. Highly recommended." Choice

"...a must read for students of policy and childhood alike." History: Review of New Books

"...the book presents real insight [and] a fascinating, detailed history of the major public policies affecting children during the past century." Children and Youth Services Review

"By combining a tightly written text with extensive notes that enrich and bolster arguement...[Sealander] balances clarity with considerable nuance and complexity. The writing is lively, with a sharp edge and entertaining anecdotes... this book will make readers think. It deserves three hearty cheers." The Journal of American History

"Judith Sealander's book is an awe-inspiring synthesis of research on state responses to child welfare in the twentieth century. Often challenging conventional wisdom, the book offers a dauntingly original take on many child welfare policies. As a historical account of child welfare policy in the twentieth century it is superb. Hers is a work that is meant to be of use. Sealander's book is one of the finest works of historical scholarship in the service of public policy that I have read."
Julia Grant, Michigan State University, American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521828789
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/27/2003
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Table of Contents

Part I. Children's Welfare: 1. Juvenile justice: from 'child saving' to 'public accountability'; 2. 'The Pontius Pilate' routine: government responses to child abuse; 3. 'Illusory promises': state aid to poor children; Part II. Children's Work: 4. 'Inducting into adulthood': state reactions to the labor of children and adolescents; Part III. Children's Education: 5. 'Laying down principles in the dark': the consequences of compulsory secondary education; 6. The return of the infant school: twentieth century preschool education; 7. Public education of disabled children: 'rewriting one of the saddest chapters'; Part IV. Children's Health: 8. 'Shaped up' by the state: government attempts to improve children's diets, exercise regimes, and physical fitness; 9. Mandatory medicine: twentieth century childhood immunization.

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