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News & Views - Dec, 1992 Issue 

Children's Future
Louv, Richard
Boston: Houghton Miffin Co,; 1990
Reviewed by Lon Woodbury

The author, a San Diego journalist, gives his perspective of how the structural "web" of family life has broken down, and the things that are happening that hopefully will rebuild it.

Based on three years of interviewing parents, educators and children throughout the country, he sees children floundering and making poor choices from the loss of the structure under which previous generations had grown up. On the positive side, he sees parents and other concerned individuals coming out of the stunned shock of the earthquake scale social changes starting in the sixties, and starting to build what might be a new structure to support our children in growing up. On the negative side, he observes that the institutions and structure of the past needed reform, not demolition. And, what happened was an abuse to that generation and the next one.

He also points out that parents are psychologically isolated because of the necessity of working, and neighborhoods tend to be empty during the day, depriving children of a parent's watchful eye during the day, and adult's watchful eye after school. When the children do get their parents in the evening and weekend, the parents tend to be exhausted. Add to this that the growth industry of experts on child growth sends messages that parents are inadequate. He talks about how television replaces family time and a child's free time to explore the world and how TV can contribute to a loss of creativity, and create a demand to be entertained, and an incessant demand for entertainment variety. He observes that a major impact could be a pervading sense of fear, a boogeyman effect, which perhaps limits a child's ability to imagine a world without violence.

One tendency he suggests might be a result of this is for parents to prefer to keep their children at home with Nintendo, TV, VCR and friends and safe from the predators they hear about in movies and newscasts. Another possible result he suggests is that children seem not to head to nature nor be engaged with nature, though they do seem to appreciate its beauty.

He tells the story of one mother who was frustrated with her bored children, and one day virtually forced them to spend the day playing in a wooded field close by. After a day of climbing trees and running in the grass, the children came back excited and having had more fun than they could remember. But, the next day, when she tried to encourage them to go back, their resistance was based on, "we've already done that."

What the author sees as needed is that children must be apprentices to life, and that is done through adult contact. He observed in his interviews that when children talk about family, they are talking about where they get love and care. On the other side, adults need to find or create the time to provide love and care, and that adults need to be needed by the young to prevent adult stagnation.

The up-side is he sees parents and other adults starting to network with each other on the problems, and the dangers of drugs, delinquency, school drop-out, etc., and beginning to realize they are not alone. He describes solutions that are being tried that may grow into a new structure for our children to grow up under. He seems to see more strength in people banding together to solve their local problems, than in some massive state or federal program to meet the problem, though he sees the need for both private and governmental efforts.

He talks about the growth of day care Coops, often in work places, where parents are intimately involved, and the rapid growth in the nanny business, and suggests they could be hired by businesses for their employees. Another possibility is expanding day care centers to become family centers. Another experiment is being done in Florida with the nation's first corporate-based, public supported school. The company provides the facilities and the public school system provides the teachers. He suggests libraries should be considered part of the education system, and that the school's mission should partly be as a parent support center and should support family life, not replace it. For example, he asks how parents can feel "at home" in schools when they don't even have an identifiable meeting place.

Agree or disagree with his observations and conclusions, this is a valuable book by a writer who looked at how we raise and educate our children, and reports to us what he saw.

Copyright 1992, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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