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12 and HoldingA Guide to Asperger SyndromeA Lethal InheritanceA Mother's Courage: Talking Back to AutismA Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning AutismA Special EducationA Toss Of The DiceA Tribe ApartA User Guide to the GF/CF Diet for Autism, Asperger Syndrome and AD/HDA Walk in the Rain With a BrainABC of Eating DisordersADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your LifeADHD Grown UpADHD in the Schools: Assessment and Intervention StrategiesADHD NationAdolescence and Body ImageAdolescent DepressionAggression and Antisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAll Alone in the UniverseAlpha GirlsAmericaAnother PlanetAntisocial Behavior in Children and AdolescentsAsperger Syndrome and Your ChildAsperger Syndrome, Adolescence, and IdentityAsperger's and GirlsAssessment of Childhood DisordersAttention Deficit DisorderAttention-Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderAutism - The Eighth Colour of the RainbowAutism and MeAutism's False ProphetsAutistic Spectrum DisordersBad GirlBeen There, Done That? DO THIS!Before I DieBetween Two WorldsBeyond AppearanceBig Mouth & Ugly GirlBipolar ChildrenBipolar Disorder in Childhood and Early AdolescenceBipolar DisordersBipolar KidsBlackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive DevelopmentBody Image, Eating Disorders, and ObesityBody Image, Eating Disorders, and Obesity in YouthBoy AloneBrain-Based Therapy with Children and AdolescentsBreaking PointBreathing UnderwaterBringing Up ParentsBullying and TeasingBullying PreventionBut I Love HimCan't Eat, Won't EatCaring for a Child with AutismCatalystChild and Adolescent PsychiatryChild and Adolescent Psychological DisordersChild and Adolescent PsychopathologyChild NeuropsychologyChild Well-BeingChildren and SexualityChildren Changed by TraumaChildren with Emerald EyesChildren with Sexual Behavior ProblemsChildren, Sexuality and SexualizationChildren’s Dreaming and the Development of Consciousness City of OneCommunication Issues In Autism And Asperger SyndromeConcepts of NormalityConcise Guide to Child and Adolescent PsychiatryConquering the Beast WithinConsuming KidsContesting ChildhoodCount Us InCrackedCrossesCutCyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy TeensDamageDemystifying the Autistic ExperienceDescartes' BabyDilemmas of DesireDirtyDisconnected KidsDoing SchoolDon't Bother Me Mom--I'm Learning!Don't Pick On MeDying to Be ThinEarly Intervention Programs and PoliciesEating an ArtichokeEducating Children With AutismEight Stories UpElijah's CupEmerald City BluesEmotional and Behavioral Problems of Young ChildrenEpilepticEthical Dilemmas in PediatricsEvery Girl Tells a StoryExiting NirvanaExploiting ChildhoodEye ContactFacing BipolarFamily HistoryFast GirlsForever YoungFreaks, Geeks and Asperger SyndromeFreewillFrictionGirl CultureGirl in the MirrorGirlfightingGirlhoodGirlWiseHandbook of Evidence-Based Therapies for Children and AdolescentsHandbook of Preschool Mental HealthHealing ADDHelping Children Cope With Disasters and TerrorismHelping Hyperactive KidsHelping Parents, Youth, and Teachers Understand Medications for Behavioral and Emotional ProblemsHelping Students Overcome Depression and AnxietyHelping Teens Who CutHollow KidsHope's BoyHow Infants Know MindsHow to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What to Do If You Can'tHurry Down SunshineI Am Not Joey PigzaIdentifying Hyperactive ChildrenIf Your Adolescent Has an Eating DisorderIn the Company of CraziesIncorporating Social Goals in the ClassroomIntegrated YogaIntrusive ParentingIssues for Families, Schools and CommunitiesJake RileyJoey Pigza Loses ControlJoey Pigza Swallowed the KeyJuvenile-Onset SchizophreniaKim: Empty InsideLearning and Behavior Problems in Asperger SyndromeLearning Disorders and Disorders of the Self in Children and AdolescentsLearning Outside the Lines Let Kids Be KidsLiberation's ChildrenLife As We Know ItLisa, Bright and DarkLook Me in the EyeLoserLove and SexLove That DogMad at SchoolMaking ADD WorkMaking American BoysManicMastering Anger and AggressionMaverick MindMedicating ChildrenMind FieldsMind to MindMommy I'm Still in HereMore Than a LabelMy Flesh and BloodMyths of ChildhoodNew Hope for Children and Teens with Bipolar DisorderNew Look at ADHD: Inhibition, Time, and Self-ControlNo Child Left DifferentNo Two AlikeNon-Drug Treatments for ADHDNot Much Just Chillin'NurtureShockOdd Girl OutOdd Girl Speaks OutOne Hot SecondOne in ThirteenOphelia SpeaksOphelia's MomOur Journey Through High Functioning Autism and Asperger SyndromeOut of the WoodsOvercoming ADHDOvercoming School AnxietyParenting a Child Who Has Intense EmotionsParenting Children With ADHDParenting Your Out-Of-Control TeenagerPediatric PsychopharmacologyPediatric PsychopharmacologyPediatric PsychopharmacologyPeople with HyperactivityPhobic and Anxiety Disorders in Children and AdolescentsPINSPlease Don't Label My ChildPraising Boys WellPraising Girls WellProblem Child or Quirky Kid?Problem GirlsPsychotherapy for Children and AdolescentsPsychotherapy with Children and AdolescentsPurgeRaising a Moody 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Philosophy of AutismThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Real Truth About Teens and SexThe Ride TogetherThe Rise and Fall of the American TeenagerThe Science of ADHDThe Sex Lives of TeenagersThe Survival Guide for Kids With LD*The Unhappy ChildThen Again, Maybe I Won'tTherapy with ChildrenThings I Have to Tell YouThings Tom LikesThrough the Glass WallThumbsuckerTotally WiredTouching Spirit BearTrauma in the Lives of ChildrenTreating ADHD and Comorbid DisordersTreatment of Childhood DisordersTwistedUnder the Wolf, Under the DogUnhappy TeenagersUnstrange MindsWastedWe've Got IssuesWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWhat about the KidsWhat in the World Are Your Kids Doing Online?What Works for Whom?What Would Joey Do?What's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for GirlsWhat's Happening to Tom?When Nothing Matters AnymoreWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWhose America?Why Don't Students Like SchoolWill's ChoiceWinnicott On the ChildWorried All the TimeYou Hear MeYoung Minds in Social WorldsYoung People and Mental HealthYour Child, Bully or Victim?
This book consists of a series of
essays published at various times during the past ten years. Its theme is well stated by the author in
her introduction: "These are
strange times to be growing up in America.
A mere twenty years ago, who could have imagined a world where
nine-month-olds use computers, ten-year-olds dress like Las Vegas showgirls,
and high schoolers pass through halls with armed guards?… The essays in this
book try to make sense of all this strangeness, as experts rarely seem to do,
and in particular to understand how the postmodern American culture that
produced the strangeness addresses the child's search for meaning." This is an enormous enterprise, of course,
and a collection of largely unrelated essays published over the course of a
decade may not be the best approach to take.
The introduction is a serious
effort to tie the pieces together and is written thoughtfully. The essays themselves, however, vary in
scope and quality, in my view.
The first essay is about day care
and provides some thought-provoking descriptions and comments, the wisest and
most pithy being, "how we rear our children reflects the kind of society
we are." This essay also
introduces a theme which runs throughout the book and which is puzzling to me:
experts are silly. After describing a
well-designed and important study on the impact of day care on child
development, the author gratuitously comments a few pages later, "Our
young mothers- and fathers-to-be face difficult choices, which they need to
make with as much wisdom and understanding as possible. If the experts and the pundits would only
The next essay concerns the
travails of getting children accepted into elite kindergartens in Manhattan,
and the toll on the lives of parents and children. This is a well-written article about a trend that does seem
silly, and I liked it. The third piece
is an attack on Sesame Street based in part on its initial design, decades ago,
as a program for commercial rather than educational television. The author argues that the program is not
all that educational. She may well be
right, though I disagree, but so what?
Kids love this program, and in a book about how society mismanages
children, it seems wonderful that there are some features available that
children truly enjoy!
The next essay is about aggression
in childhood. It is poorly researched and
states, "much as you might read about antisocial behavior in the
newspaper, it seldom makes an appearance in the literature of child
psychology. The experts are in
denial." This is an outlandish
statement: there is a truly huge and
rapidly growing literature on this topic in child psychology and child and
adolescent psychiatry. The author also
uses this chapter for the usual attack on Dr. Spock, saying that she suspects
that he "never, ever spent a day with a child" (her italics). She also attacks Robert Coles, a serious
student of childhood. He described a
situation in which he learned something from his young son and says, "My
son had become my moral instructor."
She seems to find this ludicrous.
I suspect one could turn the Dr. Spock argument against her: most people who have spent a lot of time
with children have had this experience!
Finally, she concludes the chapter with an attack on Carol Gilligan's
view that it is healthy for girls to be assertive and display their anger. The writer concludes, "Girls who resist
doing their homework, who argue with their teachers, who rebel against their
mothers, who fight with their friends: this is moral health as envisioned by
one of America's premier psychologists."
Well, yes, it is!
The next essay concerns school
discipline and is a terrible chapter.
Poor school discipline, according to Hymowitz, is not caused by
incapable teachers and administrators, but - surprise! - by children who need
special education services! "Over
the past several decades, the number of children classified under the vaguely
defined disability categories of 'learning disability' and 'emotional
disturbance' has exploded. Many of
these kids are those once just called 'unmanageable'…" I suppose it is true that these kids were
once called unmanageable, and it is a credit to our beleauguered, postmodern
society that they are now being identified (with very rigorously defined
criteria) and sometimes helped.
Hymowitz goes on to state that "psychobabblers and
psychologists" have a bad influence in schools because of
"research-based programs" such as violence prevention and
anti-bullying workshops, which, she says are "of dubious
efficacy". (If they are
research-based, we have a good idea of the efficacy!) This is an appalling chapter.
In contrast, the material in the
next essay, "Tweens: Ten Going on Sixteen", is well crafted and well
presented and points to a disturbing trend of young children growing up much
too quickly, and it is an excellent essay, but the next one on "what's
wrong with the kids" is amorphous and poorly argued. The subsequent essay on sex is disturbing
but one-sided. The next chapter, on
colleges and their curricula, is simply anti-intellectual. This is followed by a truly wonderful and
perceptive essay, "Ecstatic Capitalism's Brave New Work Ethic", which
describes the increasing trend for companies to manage their employees' lives -
and the willingness of many employees to allow this to happen! It is an outstanding and thought-provoking
essay, as is the final essay in the book, "The End of Herstory",
which describes the waning or at least transformation of the feminist
movement. It is a lively, very well
written, and thoroughly interesting argument.
What a book! The author is an amusing and cogent writer,
and many of the essays are fun to read.
In some, she achieves brilliance.
In most, she indulges in unwarranted attacks on "experts" and
disregards important data. In many,
she indulges in a lot of right-wing rhetoric without substantiation. It is unfortunate that such a gifted writer
has produced such bad essays.
The book which Hymowitz describes
in the introduction has yet to be written.
Let's hope it is, for it will be very important.
© 2004 Lloyd A. Wells
Lloyd A. Wells, Ph.D., M.D., Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN