Return parenting to parents. That's the message of this thoughtful and challenging attack on the ``nanny state.'' Liberal and conservative ideologues alike will flinch as Mack, a scholar at the Institute for American Values and a parent, variously assails and defends government and intellectuals for their roles in reshaping the family. Mack talked to 250 parents across the country (mostly married and in the middle-income bracket). She also combed the literature for the views of psychiatrists, educators, politicians, community activists, and other researchers concerned with child development. The gist of her message is that academics and institutions, beginning a century ago but increasingly in the past three decades, have usurped the parental role in shaping children's characters and values—and it isn't working. According to Mack, among the company of villains are psychotherapists like Susan Forward and Alice Miller, who have framed parents as ``toxic'' and ``narcissistic''; educators, who have taken on the job of distributing condoms in lieu of reinforcing parental values about sex; and lawyers and judges, who tout children's rights over parental rights. The press and the entertainment industry also come in for criticism, as does an economy that forces both parents into the workplace and provides few safety nets. Parents, says the author, are finally fighting back by schooling their children at home and by seeking changes in the workplace, pressuring for flextime, for home-based work, and for the right to bring babies to the office. The author offers seven actions government can take to ``regain the trust of parents,'' among them tax relief and parental leave. Mack is a little behind the wave—even the schools now acknowledge that parental involvement is critical to academic success—and her views sometimes seem simply to echo those of the families she interviewed. Nonetheless, she does children and harried parents a service by assembling in one volume vivid accounts of the varied political and social forces that are damaging families today.
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