A powerful call for parents to organize and fight back against a society that pays lip service to family values, then...


THE WAR AGAINST PARENTS: What We Can Do for America's Beleaguered Moms and Dads

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 1960s, ""big business, government, and the wider culture have waged a silent war against parents."" Beginning with reviews of their own childhoods--working 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 families' problems. West and Hewlett hope to spark a parents' 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.

Pub Date: April 20, 1998


Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1998

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