Childhood in America has changed, and not for the better. From day care for babies, to the exhausting array of activities for children, to the storm of lurid and violent shows now deemed appropriate for the young, to the expectation that teenagers build resumes, childhood has been thoroughly redefined. Anne R. Pierce argues that this radical re-definition has been embraced with remarkably little discussion about what children, by nature, need.
Pierce submits that we have latched onto opinions about childrearing that are potentially harmful to children. If traditions are choices to be embraced or abandoned at our discretion, and adult self-fulfillment is a primary determinant in those choices, the fundamentals of the well-wrought childhood are easily forgotten. Steeped in intellectual permissiveness, we have convinced ourselves that parental substitutes are as good as parents themselves at caring for children, that the concepts of nurture and of the maternal are archaic and irrelevant, that more lessons and sports are better than less and that the earlier one embarks upon them the better, and that innocence and knowledge are less important than worldly attitudes and competitive skills.
Understanding and challenging the theories and agendas behind childrearing trends is a pressing need, and the subject of this book. Pierce takes an honest look at the evidence on the effects of daycare and of hyper-structuring children. She gives voice to the many intelligent and estimable educators, child-development experts, researchers, and social commentators who are ignored because their conclusions are hard to bear. Equally important, Pierce says, is attention to that inner tug of love and conscience, which many of us have been programmed to ignore.Modern American children are expected to adjust and to understand as adults would the complexities and vicissitudes of public as opposed to private life. For them, childhood is fast becoming a distant memory. Could it be that America’s thrust forward leaves children without a solid foundation upon which to grow? This is the sobering question asked, and answered, in this challenging book.
Peruse an excerpt from Chapter 2, “Love and Stability: The Fundamentals of Early Childhood, Which Day Care Cannot Provide”
In her latest book, Ships Without A Shore: America’s Undernurtured Children, Anne R. Pierce takes a hard look at the emerging data on the effects of day care and the hyper-structuring of children’s lives with endless activities. She laments the toll taken by the modern American pace of life and the modern American entertainment industry on childhood innocence and wonder. She analyzes our shifting moral-philosophical priorities and exposes the fractured condition of our families. Pierce submits that today’s childrearing trends may just spell the death of childhood—the crucial stage in human development. Here’s what others have to say:
“Pierce is passionate about her concerns for the well-being of American children and youth. Her arguments . . . are well-grounded in theoretical and empirical work. . . . [What] she has to say is convincing.”
—William A. Corsaro, Contemporary Sociology
“She appeals to parents who have surreptitiously surrendered the privilege of nurturing their young to day care centers and media screens, under the politically correct banner of liberation–and her appeal is compelling. Arguing that the results of this myopic social experiment have been disastrous, she sends an urgent warning that children are in jeopardy when they are deprived of their developmental need for a secure, meaningful attachment to a loving parent. This book is in effect as SOS to a sinking culture–one that has set its most vulnerable citizens adrift without social, emotional, or spiritual moorings. Highly recommended. All levels, all readers.”
—S. Durr, Choice
“Gutsy and provocative, Anne Pierce presents an articulate, no-holds-barred indictment of current child-rearing practices. Read this book, and you will have plenty to talk–and to think–about!”
—Jane M. Healy, Educational psychologist and author of Endangered Minds
“Thoughtful parents will find Anne Pierce’s Ships Without a Shore a provocative, even disturbing book. She challenges the ethos of self-fulfillment, personal achievement, and moral relativism propagated by conventional wisdom and popular culture, and draws a bleak picture of its effects on child rearing. Drawing on her own experience as a parent and observation of other parents and children as well as on neurological, psychological, and other social scientific research, taking a long historical perspective and appealing to the insights of an earlier philosophical and religious tradition, Anne Pierce talks unfashionably and compellingly about children’s natural needs for stable parental love and care and to be taught right and wrong and have their innocence protected from corruption.”
—Nathan Tarcov, University of Chicago
“Ships without a Shore provides a vivid and stinging critique of the state of affairs of our young – from babies to adolescents. Anne R. Pierce provides a compelling discussion of the key issues that contribute to child development and health as well as more subtle aspects of life such as optimism and positive expectations, from parenting to peer and media influences in our rapidly changing world. Exhibiting exceptional scholarly review, she presents arguments from a range of fields touching child development using summary and quotation surrounded by her own analyses. In this way, she raises concerns about the way in which modern forces are filling our children’s lives with information and busy activities that have empty materialistic goals and do not engender introspection, enjoyment of simple pleasures. This book raises the alarm that current conditions are creating children without a moral compass… especially during developmental phases which set the capacity for these feelings to ever develop. She argues convincingly that without appropriate time to reflect on the wonders of being alive during the right developmental stages, we may be raising an antisocial and non-creative generation of children who will grow to become adults unable to reach their imaginative, altruistic and emotionally balanced potential because of this neglect and materialistic environment. This is an extremely important book on the importance and challenges of child development at our current technological crossroads at which media is able to deliver incredible “programming” to our youth to massive and potentially disastrous effect.”
—James E. Swain MD, PhD, FRCPC, Child Study Center at Yale University
“An insightful critique of the restlessness of American life and its detrimental effects on children, Pierce’s Ships Without A Shore reads like a twenty-first century supplement to Tocqueville’s nineteenth century Democracy in America. For like Tocqueville, Pierce examines the moral and intellectual culture of the American regime that shapes the beliefs of its members and thereby the way they raise their children.
“Deeply learned, well researched, and emotionally perceptive, Pierce’s analysis thus qualifies not only as a timely commentary on contemporary child-rearing but also as an enduring work of political philosophy about the American regime–a book for both parents and scholars.
“Pierce asks us to stop and think about the new frenetic way of life we impose on children and on ourselves, a way of life that manifests the American spirit but rushes child development.”
—Judith A. Swanson, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Boston University
“This book is brilliant… and should be required reading for all parents… I read it cover to cover with pencil in hand. I couldn’t stop myself from underlining passages and making notes in the margins… It will leave you wanting to talk about the ideas with someone… Let’s really get a dialogue going about this very important topic. Our children and the future of our country depend on it.”
—ChristineMM, The Thinking Mother
“Who’s minding America’s children? Arguing that children have been abandoned by a generation of self-indulgent parents, Pierce sounds the alarm for children in crisis. She explains how the definition of childhood has been radically undermined as baby boomers have embraced a lifestyle of materialism and moral relativism. She appeals to parents who have surrendered the privilege of nurturing their young to day care centers and media screens — and her appeal is compelling. Highly recommended.”
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Transaction Publishers (Aug. 7, 2009)
American Counseling Association
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