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

Lives on the Edge

Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America

Paperback

Published: 28th May 1994
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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 thatmatters - 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,

What life is like for single mothers and their children living in poverty in America today - and why it need not be that way. Polakow (Educational Psychology/Eastern Michigan University) brings historical perspective to society's often hostile attitudes toward the poor, especially those on welfare. Interviews with six black teenage mothers and five somewhat older white mothers reveal their precarious existence and their struggles to cope in the face of woefully inadequate social-support systems. The author also looks closely at the early classroom experiences of selected poor children, concluding that discriminatory assumptions and expectations of educators often fail to enrich such childhoods and, instead, promote discouragement and failure. Noting that the US falls far short of the level of social services offered in other Western industrialized countries, Polakow argues for universal health care, a national child-care system, affordable housing, child allowances, parental leave, and educational reform. Acknowledging that legislative and public support for such measures is lacking, she urges a fundamental change in the way the "haves" view (i.e., blame) the "have-nots." The individual stories here refute the popular image of welfare mothers as moral degenerates breeding children solely for the meal tickets they represent. Polakow's subjects care for their children and strive to improve their lot but are hampered by social policies that thwart rather than aid their efforts. Their individual stories, told mostly in their own words, are often moving, but Polakow's academese ("deconstructing the myth of childhood"; "pedagogy of equity"; "concrete praxis") can make for slow going. A serious effort that commands attention when the poor speak for themselves but that loses its power when the professor lectures. (Kirkus Reviews)

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Childhood Revisited
Motherhood and the Ideology of Care
The Other Motherhood: The Landscape of Single Mothers in Poverty
Young Mothers' Stories: Being Teenage, Black, and Single
Mothers' Stories: Contingency Continued
Inside Public Preschools: A View from Below
The Classroom Worlds of At-Risk Children: Five Portraits
Poor Children's Pedagogy: The Construction of At-Risk Students
Lives on the Edge Afterword: Some Reflections on the Future
Appendix: Some Notes on Method
Notes
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780226671840
ISBN-10: 0226671844
Series: Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 232
Published: 28th May 1994
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 25.0 x 20.0  x 1.27
Weight (kg): 0.31
Edition Type: New edition