SMALL FUTURES: Children, Inequality, and the Limits of Liberal Reform by Richard H. deLone

SMALL FUTURES: Children, Inequality, and the Limits of Liberal Reform

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The inequality of children's futures is the starting point of this book""--which explores the contradictions of liberal social theory and discredits its policies for overestimating individual ability and ignoring structural economic forces. Enlarging on a theme sounded in Keniston's Carnegie Council report (All Our Children, 1977), Council member deLone offers this temperate formulation which examines three reform eras (Jacksonian, Progressive, Great Society) and finds their goals unrealized because of faulty premises. ""The persistent belief of liberal reformers has been that it is possible to have your cake and eat it, too; that the elimination of inequality does not depend on redistribution from rich and powerful to poor and powerless; rather, that the way to change society is to change individuals."" DeLone challenges that assumption, contending that intervention in the lives of children merely provides patch-up services, failing to improve their opportunities and, in many cases, insidiously diminishing them. Only a redistribution of income and power--a social reordering which improves the circumstances of adults--can affect the next generation's chances for a better life. This is, of course, compatible with the Council's recommendations; deLone also restates the more vulnerable aspects of the earlier report--the economic policy adjustments, including a credit tax plan and a commitment to full employment. But in his pursuit of a more egalitarian family policy, he also constructs the outlines for a more comprehensive theory of child development, one which attempts to recognize generally obscured factors such as racism; and he does so without sermonizing or turning to rhetoric. Keniston's report attracted serious attention, even some applause, but little follow-through. This well-argued offshoot, which also warrants a good reception, should refuel the controversy.

Pub Date: Aug. 22nd, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich