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Lives on the Edge Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America cover
  • ISBN: 9780226671840
  • ISBN10: 0226671844

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

by Valerie Polakow

  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 04/01/1994
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Description
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, feminist, and public policy perspectives to develop an informed, wide-ranging critique of American educational and social policy. Polakow's recommendations in the areas of social policy and education point to useful cross-cultural models as well as successful small-scale programs in place in the United States. Yet Polakow constantly reminds us that "small facts speak to large issues". By providing us with a living sense of the other America, she helps us to realize that "their" America is no "other" than ours. Stark, penetrating, and unflinching, this work challenges our cherished myths of justice and democracy.
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