Why Does America Fail Its Children?
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 America, which considers itself a child-centered society, is, according to Hodgson, anything but. The author, director of a children's study center in Santa Monica, Calif., and a consultant to the Harvard Project on Schooling and Children, uses recent high-profile cases like the Menendez brothers' murder of their parents and Susan Smith's murder of her two children to illuminate how Americans both misread and misdirect their concerns about children's conditions in this society. In chapter after chapter, she lifts rocks from the latest trends in politics, economics, and social theory to reveal a scurrying nest of notions that give priority to powerful adults rather than needy children. For instance, she raises a deceptively simple question regarding the hotly contested issue of children's legal rights: If giving children more standing regarding their home life and upbringing will find them leaving home in droves, as some conservatives have argued, then might there not be something wrong with the homes? In another chapter, she suggests that children are not always better off with their biological parents. The ``nearly unconditional parental power'' over children shows a society, she asserts, deliberately blind to the fact that most known child abuse occurs within the home and not at the hands of fearsome strangers. Moreover, Hodgson points out that even though we know now that sexual abuse of children is far more widespread than previously believed, the testimony of children about their abuse is regarded as highly suspect. She also fingers poverty as a more likely culprit than moral decay in the so-called breakdown of the family. It is, she concludes, ``terrifying, difficult and dangerous to be a child in this society.'' No quick fixes suggested here, but a thought-provoking, well-argued examination of the hypocrisy that surrounds America's view of its children, and the tragic consequences of that view.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-55597-261-6
Page count: 298pp
Publisher: Graywolf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1997