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21 April 2010

Book Review: Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood

Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood
by Steven Mintz 


Good overview of how America, since its inception as a society, has handled the phenomenon of childhood. Bogged down a little in the section describing the 60s-90s, as that's when the litigious-speak kicked in but overall a very readable, interesting and enlightening history. Amazing that our current conception of childhood is such a young idea.

"History offers no easy solutions to the problems of disconnection, stress, and role contradictions that today's children face, but it does provide certain insights that might be helpful as we seek solutions. The first is that nostalgia for the past offers no solutions to the problems of the present ... No V-chip, internet filtering software or CD rating system will immunize children from the influence of contemporary culture. Since we cannot insulate children from all malign influences, it is essential that we prepare them to deal responsibly with the pressures and choices they face. That task requires knowledge, not sheltering ... Second, we must recognize that solutions to young people's problems cannot simply come from individual parents, nor should they ... our society can provide the young with meaningful opportunities to contribute to their communities and provide the young with adult mentoring relationships."

What childhood needs most of all are "opportunities to undertake odysseys of self-discovery outside the goal-driven, overstructured realities of contemporary childhood."