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The War Against Parents: What We Can Do for America's Beleaguered Moms and Dads

The War Against Parents: What We Can Do for America's Beleaguered Moms and Dads

by Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Sylvia Ann Hewlett

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A white feminist and a black human rights activist join in a rare partnershipto address the burning social issue of our time: the abandonment of America's parents.


A white feminist and a black human rights activist join in a rare partnershipto address the burning social issue of our time: the abandonment of America's parents.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
"Given the crisis faced today by all children, especially poor and black children, many of whom are struggling to beat insurmountable odds, it is time for our society to look at what we can do to make parents' jobs easier and how we can change some of the things we are doing that are making it more difficult than necessary to raise children. This is a timely book that brings an urgent problem into much clearer focus." —Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children's Defense Fund

One of America's foremost thinkers on race, Cornel West, and the founder and president of the National Parenting Association, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, have come together to stake a claim for the future of America's parents and children in their new book, The War Against Parents, which deals with one of the burning social issues of our time: the virtual abandonment of parents — poor and middle class — by our business, political, and cultural elites.

In The War Against Parents, Hewlett and West call for a Parents' Bill of Rights that gives new value and dignity to the parental role and restores our nation's commitment to the well-being of children. The authors show how for 30 years, big business, government, and the wider culture have waged a silent war against parents. Moms and dads have been hurt by managerial greed, pounded by tax and housing policies, and invaded and degraded by the media. As a result, many children have been left home alone to raise themselves on a thin and cruel diet of junk food, gangsta rap, and trashy talk shows. We live in a nation, theauthorscontend, in which market work, centered on profits and greed, increasingly crowds out nonmarket work, which focuses on commitment and care. In calling for a Parents' Bill of Rights, Hewlett and West seek to unite America's parents behind an agenda that crosses the divides of race, gender, and class. Their bill calls for providing economic security, relieving the parental time crunch, strengthening marriage, and bestowing new honor and dignity on the parental role. The authors spent three years listening to the concerns and yearnings of parents across the country, and it is the voices of America's 62 million parents that give The War Against Parents its power.

The War Against Parents is both a visionary and an intimate book. West and Hewlett explore their childhoods — one in a black, blue-collar America, the other in a white, working-class Wales — and with striking candor tell of their struggles to be good parents in today's society. Lending moral heft to the work parents do, Hewlett and West provide comfort and hope for healing.

Lynn Karpen
Hewlett and West...demand understanding as well as legislation if parents are to overcome the huge obstacles our society has institutionalized. --New York Times Book Review.
VOYA - Ann Welton
Today almost all parents face shortages of time and/or money, downsizing creates job insecurities and a climate of uncertainty, and television portrays parents as bumbling idiots. Welfare reforms requiring women to work outside the home place more children in poor or barely adequate daycare situations, while financial pinches often require parents to send school-age children home on their own, thus contributing to the delinquency problems associated with unsupervised youth. The picture authors Hewlett and West paint is discouraging to say the least. They outline the deleterious effects of a greedy managerial class and discuss how current government policies, increasingly oriented to profit businesses and undermine families, compare with the pro-family GI Bill of the 1950s. They cite the negative effects of the popular culture, which encourages children to denigrate their parents, and detail the ways that fathers have become less central to families-indeed absent from many. Although the inundation of bad news and horrifying statistics is numbing, the message is very much in line with Pipher's Reviving Ophelia (Putnam, 1994/VOYA October 1994) and The Shelter of Each Other (Putnam, 1996), and is supported by the statistics in the Barnets' The Youngest Minds (Simon & Schuster, 1998). A detailed analysis of results garnered from a nationwide poll conducted in 1996 is extended by data collected from a series of focus groups. The resulting list of priorities is revealing. Major concerns include trigger locks on handguns (or banning handguns all together), federal assistance for lower income families as regards college fees and tax breaks, incentives for employers to offer flexible scheduling and time away from work, and lengthening the school day and year. Hewlett and West do have concrete proposals for achieving some of these ends, including ideas for funding. However, though they repeatedly call for an extended school day and year, they make no recommendations as to how this might be accommodated financially. Safe Passage by Dryfoos (Oxford University Press, 1998) projects a community-based model in which schools and municipalities work to make the school the center of the local community. To present longer school days and years, as Hewlett and West do, as a simple matter of extension is a bit misleading. As well, the statistic given for the dropout rate is disputed and there is similar debate over the statistics given for international academic standing of American students and the purported decline in SAT scores. Regardless, this is a thought-provoking look at the difficulties of raising children in what is, in many ways, a hostile culture. The book could have been improved by interspersing the bad news with concrete suggestions about what families can do to improve their lot on a daily basis. In this regard, The Shelter of Each Other is a better how-to manual. Nonetheless, The War Against Parents is singular in presenting both a vision of broad social change to support families and limning, though not in detail, methods to achieve that end. Hewlett and West excel in presenting the problem. However, given the discouraging outlook presented in the first three-quarters of the book, this timely and reasonably objective look at the challenges of parenting is best read in tandem with other solution oriented books, such as the titles listed above. Index. Source Notes.
Library Journal
A feminist scholar and a noted African American intellectual argue that business, government, and the culture at large make raising children impossible.
A white woman and a black man come together to address the burning social issue of our time -- the virtual abandonment of parents by our business, political, and cultural elites. They call for a Parents' Bill of Rights that spans the divides of race, gender, and class to give new value and dignity to the parental role and restore our nation's commitment to the well-being of children. --Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
This is a work of exceptional energy, reflection, honesty and passion.
Theology Today
Kirkus Reviews
A powerful call for parents to organize and fight back against a society that pays lip service to family values, then abandons mothers and fathers to an economic and political swamp. Both active in the National Parenting Association (Hewlett was a founder), the noted African-American studies and religion scholar West (Harvard; Race Matters, 1993, etc.) and economist Hewlett (When the Bough Breaks, 1991) make an eloquent case that since the 1960's, "big business, government, and the wider culture have waged a silent war against parents." Beginning with reviews of their own childhoodsþworking class, with close family and community ties—Hewlett and West go on to point out how attitudes toward parents have changed since then. If the 1950s was a time of too-good-to-be-true Ozzies and Harriets, it was also an era of strong government and community support for families: The G.I. bill offered money for education and housing plus a subsidy for the families of veterans in school; jobs were plentiful and paid well; and workers were supported by strong labor unions. Beginning in the early 1970s, attitudes began to shift, with business and government taking a harder line toward workers and benefits. Tax breaks for families eroded; today, they claim, horses are more tax-deductible than children. Liberals come under fire for a commitment to "untrammeled individualism" that undermines the collective concern and self-sacrifice necessary for raising children. The authors also criticize the media (primarily television) and the child-welfare bureaucracy that finds it easier to take children away from their parents than to deal with the familiesþ problems. West and Hewletthope to spark a parentsþ movement that will lead to implementation of a "Parents' Bill of Rights," including such items as paid parenting leave, a "living wage," legal and moral support for fathers (for instance, in child custody disputes), and family health coverage. A potent presentation that may energize legislators and policymakers to end the "war" and reassess the needs of families.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.33(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.31(d)

What People are Saying About This

Carol Gilligan
"In this bold, compassionate, and overridingly important book, Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Cornel West take up the question the women's movement placed on the national agenda: do we care about the people who take care of children? Calling for an end to the war against parents, they propose a Marshall Plan to rebuild families devastated by social and economic policies and by the racial and gender divisions which this book symbolically ends." -- Author of In a Different Voice
William Julius Wilson
"This is the book we have been waiting for. Hewlett and West insightfully explain the social, economic, and political forces that have undermined parenting in America. Their balanced and provocative discussion reveals that both liberals and conservatives have been involved in the war against parents. Hopefully the authors' comprehensive vision, framework, and policy prescriptions will trigger the moral and political awakening needed to reinforce and revalue parenting in our nation." -- Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, Harvard University
Marian Wright Edelman
This is a timely book that brings an urgent problem into much clearer focus.
Jonathan Kozol
What a marvelous alliance of two wise and gifted advocates and authors!...This is an important book, nicely balanced, superbly presented, and tremendously convincing.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Rich, deeply felt, eloquent and passionate, this splendid book tells us more about the crisis our children face today and what we as a nation must do about it than anything I have read.

Meet the Author

Cornel West, "the preeminent African- American intellectual of our generation" (Henry Louis Gates, Jr.), is author of Race Matters (Beacon hardcover 0-8070-0918-0 / $15.00), a New York Times bestseller for ten weeks. He is a university professor at Harvard University, lectures widely, and lives in the Boston area.

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