An engaging and provocative contribution to social history.

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RAISING AMERICA

EXPERTS, PARENTS, AND A CENTURY OF ADVICE ABOUT CHILDREN

An unfailingly interesting study of a peculiarly American fixation: how to raise a child.

All societies nurture their children, of course, and just about everyone worries about whether their offspring are safe, secure, and well cared for. But ever since the advent of the Industrial Age, writes former New Republic editor Hulbert (The Interior Castle: The Art and Life of Jean Stafford, 1992), Americans have been beset by anxiety in nearly every aspect of child-rearing, worrying that they haven’t been doing their best at it, and their angst hasn’t been helped by the flood of conflicting advice by scientists, pseudo-scientists, and, always, religious leaders. Where the avuncular, Cold War–era Benjamin Spock discouraged corporal punishment for childish misdemeanors, for instance, the bestselling behaviorist John Broadus Watson “scoffed at nonsense about how children ‘develop from within’ ” and warned against parents’ being overly affectionate, sure that this would breed “soft citizens ill suited to an impersonal, organized world”; where Spock and his followers blended a kind of dilute Freudianism with dashes of world anthropology and democratic ideology, an authority of the turn of the 20th century named Anna Rogers urged that there was quite too much concern for emotional well-being among her peers, railing, “If only a mother would strive to put less heart into it all, and more mind!” Hulbert takes her readers on a chronological guided tour through the various psychological and sociological schools that have at one time or another held sway over the last century, pointing out the “inconsistent, often quickly obsolescent, counsel peddled to the public” and relating changing mores to other social shifts. The topic of child-raising continues to absorb us, she writes, and can still generate controversy, as when Judith Rich Harris’s The Nurture Assumption stirred up wide debate after its publication in 1998; even so, no one school of thought dominates the matter today, leaving ever-bewildered parents to sort through “programmatic child-rearing creeds” for themselves and hope that Jack and Jill turn out okay.

An engaging and provocative contribution to social history.

Pub Date: April 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-40120-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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