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Baker, Robin. (2000). Sex in the Future: The Reproductive Revolution and How it Will Change Us. New York: Arcade Publishing. ISBN 1-55970-521-3. 320 pp.
This book is a blend of many elements—science reporting, fiction, male backlash, social-political vision—but at its core is a biologist's certainty that human behavior can be predicted based on predictable differences between men and women. Baker's future is organized around assumptions about "ancient urges" that include men seeking to engage in intercourse with as many women as possible, and women—seeking security for their offspring—luring economically desirable partners into intercourse with the goal of convincing one of them that he has fathered her child.
The future of sex, according to Baker, is a world of single adults who engage in short-term affairs that generally end because long-term coupling is not necessary, and the excitement of a new partner can only last a short time. Technological advances allow adults to "block and bank" their sperm and eggs, eliminating the connection between intercourse and conception. Adults who choose to become parents have options, including cloning, that guarantee the genetic makeup of the child. The genetic parenthood of every child is a matter of public record; therefore, every child and his or her (usually female) caregiver is supported based on clear contracts between the state and the adults concerned. Population levels are controlled and every adult has the option of parenthood despite falling sperm counts and other increasing problems with natural reproduction.
Baker's fictional elements portray contemporary family life as strained and attempt to predict how these technological changes will operate in peoples' lives. He expresses a wistful longing for the future in which people will feel free to have as much sex as they want with whomever they want, ending millennia of frustration and mistrust. At the same time, he predicts continuing struggles around issues such as jealousy, sexual insecurity, and incest. Regardless of his personal agenda, some of his scientific predictions are likely to be accurate and his future scenarios will likely confront the family practitioner. While a suggested bibliography is provided, this journalistic work deliberately does not include references and, therefore, may be of little use in higher education except to provoke controversy and debate about sex in the future.
Burgess, Norma J., & Brown, Eurnestine. (2000). African American Women: An Ecological Perspective. New York: Palmer Press. ISBN 0815315910. 196 pp.
African American Women: An Ecological Perspective, by Burgess and Brown (2000), draws from sociocultural and sociohistorical approaches and ecological theory to present a framework for understanding the experiences of African American women. This framework makes it possible to present a range of experiences within which African American women may find commonality. Eight guest authors or groups of authors, in addition to coauthors Burgess and Brown, discuss various elements of the experiences of African American women.
Coauthor Burgess, in Chapter 2, takes the position that African American women must be studied according to their experiences throughout history—a perspective frequently lacking in research and theory development. Burgess divides the sociohistorical perspective into a) the African influence, which includes an extended family form of socializing children, and b) experiences as Africans in America—from the experience of slavery to the current era. The adjustments African American women have had to make to a history of slavery and external threats to the stability of family life should be a part of any examination of their experience, according to Burgess.
A key point made by Al-Mateen, Webb, Christian, and Donatelli in Chapter 3 is that the development of personal identity in African American women must be understood from three perspectives: human development; ethnic identity development; and womanist identity development. Each of these identities develops across women's childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Lesbian identity may place a woman in the unique position of being a minority within a minority, with the experience often differing depending on whether a woman affiliates with the African American or the European lesbian community. Ending a very detailed discussion, the authors use Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman!" speech to highlight the interactional quality of identity development in African American women and to call for further study using this integrated perspective.
Sparrow, in Chapter 4, reviews the often sensitive area of male-female relationships among African Americans —beginning the discussion with the influence of negative societal and economic factors, such as high unemployment rates among African American men and the lower numbers of African American men compared to African American women. Emphases addressed by Sparrow are that psychological qualities are of special interest to African American women in seeking a mate; that differences in education can affect the availability of mates for African American women or may complicate relationships when they do occur; and that an earlier trend in rates of premarital sexual relationships among African American compared to white women is beginning to be reversed. The author calls for a research emphasis on goals and expectations of African American women in dating and mating relationships and how they may differ from those of African American men; on the dating experience of single, professional African American women; and on experiences of African American women in communal living, lesbian relationships, and interracial dating.
In Chapter 5, coauthor Eurnestine Brown reviews research and theoretical writing regarding African American women as parents. In the past, parenting by African Americans was presented using a deficit model—one that confounded race and class. However, more recent research is said to examine the context within which socialization of children is carried out—a context that includes the influence of economic status (poverty and middle class status), family structure (especially single-parenthood), and age at first motherhood and parenting. Brown ends the chapter by discussing the multidimensionality of parenting styles and competencies among African American women, by calling for wider assumption of roles as child advocates, and by emphasizing future research directed at the effect of welfare and health reform and at biculturalism as an outcome in parenting by African American women.
Peggy Dilworth-Anderson and Lyn Rhoden discuss the centrality of women in the history of African American people—frequently as caregivers and socializers of the children of others as well as their own. This role is seen in three historical periods: a) during the era of slavery, where women cared for and socialized the children of parents who were sold or were otherwise not available; b) during the post-slavery era in the rural agricultural South and later in the industrial urban areas of the North when African American women maintained the stability of their own households or cared for the children of other women who were compelled to work outside their homes; and c) contemporarily, where women continue to perform the service needs of others or to care for the children of women who work outside their homes by economic necessity rather than by choice. Dilworth-Anderson and Rhoden highlight the fact that the definition of motherhood among African American women extends far beyond biological parenthood and they call attention to the role of extended family. While recognizing the "patriarchal, sexist and oppressive sex role norms that structure work and family roles" (p. 89), the authors describe how African American women have reframed these realities in ways that enable them to derive a sense of wholeness and self-affirmation from the "mothering" experience. Roles of mothers and othermothers will continue in the extended kin network especially, although new strategies will be incorporated.
Caldwell, in Chapter 7, sets out to examine the nature of social support available and distributed to African American women through organizations and institutions based in the African American community. Beginning with the historic Association of Colored Women's Clubs, Caldwell traces the influence of African American churches, sororities, and informal mentoring processes. She distinguishes between the usefulness of these organizations in nurturance, in the provision of opportunities for community service, and in mentorship of African American women. Two directions called for are linkages of work done through African American churches with the larger social service network, and the establishment of a more formalized process of career mentoring among African American women.
Turner and Bagley (Chapter 8) elaborate on the role African American women play in the church and in formal religion. Although African American women have traditionally provided leadership in the church, the actual roles they perform differ according to the denomination and its position on acceptable roles of leadership for women in the church (e.g., acceptance of women as pastors). In instances where the church has restricted women pastors, for example, women have taken other leadership roles, such as in education and mission work. The church also serves as a resource to African American women for participation in social activism, for closeness and a sense of belonging, for financial and other material and emotional support, for companionship, and for social interaction. From a mental health standpoint, the church may serve as a source of building faith and coping for African American women — in which women experience the healing benefits of prayer and spirituality. African American women may turn more quickly to pastors and other religious persons than to more formal helpers for counseling, advice, and problem solving. The authors call on the black church to use its position to influence policies on behalf of women's rights—policies such as insuring the provision of equal opportunity for women in roles as pastors. Mental health practitioners in the general community, when working with African American women, are encouraged to advocate incorporating the role of religion and religiosity as sources of healing for black women. The need for further study in this area is called for.
In discussing stress, coping, and the mental health of African American women, Christian, Al-Mateen, Webb, and Donatelli (Chapter 9) give particular attention to social context as a source of stress. As common stresses of African American women they include financial stress, multiple role stress, romantic relationship stress, work-related stress, and stress associated with upward mobility. Cultural factors may determine certain coping strategies, such as reliance on family and extended kin, a sense of sisterhood with other African American women, religiosity, and an external locus of control. Counselors working with African American women clients are encouraged to pay attention to their own biases and stereotypes and to the particular stress-producing conditions faced by African American women; to avoid assuming that all problems presented are related to racism and oppression; and to use an empowerment model of intervention.
Harris and Johnson, in discussing health care delivery for African American women (Chapter 10), point out that during the era of slavery African American women were forced to rely on nontraditional healers. White physicians later developed stereotyped ideas of the health and health care needs of African Americans, including African American women, subsequently either excluding them from the formal health care provider systems or using them in experimental interventions without their knowledge or agreement. The authors discuss the cognitive processes African American women may ascribe to that may put them at risk of certain health problems—the idea, for example, that "I should do it all myself." Black women are at particular risk of coronary disease and diabetes. The authors emphasize a need for health care providers to incorporate in their work the cultural aspects of every cultural group.
Finally, with regard to career and family roles of African American women, Murrell (Chapter 11) stresses the importance of studying the separate effects of race and sex on the economic functioning of African American women. The interaction between the two is additionally important. These effects are noted in higher unemployment rates among African American women compared to white women and white men: in the necessity of working longer hours to make a salary equal to that of white and black men, in their overrepresentation in lower-paying service and clerical jobs, and in the unchanging median income of African American women who are heading households.
Burgess and Brown have done a commendable job of bringing together discussions of a range of perspectives from which the experiences of many African American women can be understood. Family scientists who prepare to design future research involving African American women will find it useful to review the contents—especially those related to the particular construct of study.
Ciulla, Joanne B. (2000). The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-8129-2901-2. 266 pp.
The Working Life is a philosophical treatise, written by an academic and professor of business ethics. Anyone reflecting on forces that shape our culture in a post-industrial, Internet age of exploding technology will find Professor Ciulla's book a good read. At a time when the rules are dramatically changing, and employment concepts like "long-term company loyalty" and "job security" have become relatively fragile expectations, the author creates a context for meaningful reflection on the rapidly changing world of work.
At times it is a bit much to get through all the references to classical Greece, Aesop's Fables, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and analogies to the work habits of cicadas, bees, ants and grasshoppers; but the author does a credible job addressing current questions about work, the workplace, organizations and the impact of work on the individual. This "business" book is framed in the classical, liberal arts tradition of the humanities. References from Aristotle to Bertrand Russell pepper the author's anecdotal-but always interesting-presentation of current business trends and theories: for example, "reinventing business," Deming's "Total Quality Management," Whyte's The Organization Man and The Bolivar Project, a grand experiment giving employees increased job security and an active role in decision making at work. (The Bolivar Project eventually failed.) Author Ciulla provides humor and insight into the contemporary work world that inspired "Dilbert" and "Dogbert" as legitimate agents of management change as they help define the contemporary culture of work.
Ciulla raises important questions about work in a world where companies are challenged-if not compromised-in making promises to both employees and stockholders. In her review of 20th Century management theories, the author keeps raising questions related to justice and realistic expectations about work in a technological age. The Working Life might be characterized as an academic's version of Studs Terkel's classic book, Working. Instead of chronicling individual workers describing their work experience, Ciulla has organized many interesting and informative anecdotes and references that document the trends and patterns that bring us to this post-industrial working era.
This work could be recommended reading for higher education students in social work, marriage and family studies, and business. For the student, professor, union leader, or corporate manager, the promise of this book is that it provides an interesting and informative frame of reference for studying-if not coping with-the paradoxes and challenges of the ever-evolving world of work. Professor Ciulla asks the right questions for ethically shaping both personal and societal values that dignify each person in his or her future world of work.
Skocpol, Theda. (2000). The Missing Middle: Working Families and the Future of American Social Policy. New York: Norton. ISBN 0-3930-48225. 256 pp.
The Missing Middle "...grapples with current U.S. policy debates, asking how we as Americans can continue to care for our grandparents while doing a much better job than we now do of supporting all working parents as they do the hard and vital work of raising our nation's children" (p. xi). Here Theda Skocpol's focus is clearly seen. The author's concern goes beyond the popular notion that pertinent social policy and programs should be directed solely to the elderly or to children.
Skocpol outlines how America's current political and media cultures have developed an artificial and dichotomous social policy environment that pits the needs of the elderly against the needs of poor children. This artificial division serves to divert the policy and economic energies of our government from effectively meeting the needs of either group, but more importantly from seeing and addressing the needs of what the author calls "the missing middle." Skocpol uses the term "middle" in both a socioeconomic and generational sense.
The people of the missing middle are working men and women of modest economic means-people who are not children and yet not retirees. They are the adults who do most of the providing and caring for the children who represent the future of American society, while paying the taxes sustaining retirees now and into the future...These Americans are, above all, the people who put in long hours to earn a living and make a decent life-coping with rising pressures in their workplaces, while trying to raise children in solo parent or dual worker households. (pp. 8-9)
Whether one agrees or disagrees with Skocpol's political views, her book serves to shed some light on the chronology of successful and unsuccessful social programs in U.S. history. Skocpol's recapping of our social policy history is helpful in that it untangles the conflicting partisan agendas, the cultural influences, and the demographic changes that have served to shape and direct American social policy. For example, Skocpol outlines four crucial tenets as the formula for successful American provision: a) giving support to people across classes; b) justifying social benefits as supports for recipients seen as "contributors" to the community; c) relying on partnerships between government and civic membership associations in the successful administration of benefits; and d) having reliable public revenues for financial backing. Partisan politics over the last two generations have neglected this formula-leaving America with a confusing and ineffectual social policy for families. "No one, it has seemed, is able to speak up on behalf of a social politics that would benefit the less privileged while bringing most Americans together" (p. 51).
Skocpol uses an interesting word picture in making her point about who should be the focus of American social policy. Reminding us of the message flight attendants review regarding the use of the drop-down oxygen masks, adults and parents are advised to put their oxygen masks on first and then help the children. The author continues:
This makes good sense, we realize, because children need their parents to be in good shape, fully functional. The same is true in our economy and communities. Children need healthy parents who can earn a living, care for them, and participate in community and national decisions on their behalf. Benefits or services administered by social service professionals are not an acceptable substitute for strong and caring parents. Americans agree that parents should be able to do their jobs -at home and in the community, as well as in the workplace. So there are bright prospects for a new progressive politics focused on social supports for all working parents -especially if actual parents are included as responsible citizen-partners, not just as clients. (pp. 142-143)
Skocpol's book does not provide a lot of "feel good" narrative for either liberal or conservative family professionals. Her critiques of past and present approaches to family policies of both persuasions are thorough and direct. The author does give credit where credit is due, but it is her view that there is little to credit and much that remains to be done. American social policy regarding families must move beyond token programs and rhetoric and become inclusive of working American parents-both as the focus and designers of American social policy.
Although the book has no single theoretical focus, the author's analysis of America's social policy history and the challenges for creative future family policy centering on working adults as parents, workers, community participants, and political agents is clearly ecological. Her emphasis on government, communities, and civic groups serving as partners to meet the needs of parents raising the next generation makes it excellent reading material for students of human ecology, citizens involved in collaborative efforts in communities, and policy makers at all levels of government. Skocpol's book would also make an interesting supplemental text for graduate courses in public policy, family studies, community development, political science, and social work.
Bolt, David B., & Crawford, Ray A. K. (2000). Digital Divide: Computers and Our Children's Future. New York: TV Books. ISBN 1-57500-086-5. 205 pp.
Digital Divide is a companion book to the PBS television series of the same name. Although the authors-a documentary film producer and a technical/ educational publisher-do not cite full references in the text, they have prepared a highly readable and scholarly overview of the issues surrounding the inequities in computer access and technology education. The Introduction provides readers with the scope of the problem, a sociohistorical perspective, and a distinctly contextualized view of the effects of gender, race, and class on the future of children's computing. In chapter 1, "Teaching Our Children Well," the authors argue that computer access without teacher training is ineffective. A 1999 Department of Education study of 3,500 educators is cited in which only 2O% of teachers felt prepared to use computers in the classroom. Cutting programs to put computers in every classroom without the instructional support in fact may be shortchanging students.
Chapter 2, "The Future of Work," presents the range of technical, team, and conceptual skills that are needed by students to become prepared for the 21st Century workplace. However, unlike many polemics of the digital generation, this chapter provides the reader with an understanding of the dilemmas of economic, cultural/ linguistic, or maturational constraints on computer connectivity. Recommended are such collaborative programs as "Plugged In." a community tech center that markets the expertise of young persons to local businesses.
Chapter 3, "The Gender Gap," reviews current findings on the preferential treatment of boys in computer learning situations, the biased publishing of software and computer games, and the lack of appropriate computer learning contexts for girls. By highlighting programs and websites that target girls, such as, TechGrrlz and SmartGrrlz, this book makes a valuable contribution to parents and educators searching for innovative resources. As if to compensate the reader for the omission of bibliographic references, the authors provide an excellent appendix of sources, URLs, and personal contacts.
In Chapter 4, "The World White Web." the same attention afforded gender bias is given to racial discrimination in technology-from the low incidence of role models in the corporate world to the lack of content that is sensitive or relevant to minority group interests. Also cited is a Department of Commerce study that called the "technologically disenfranchised" those persons who are less likely to have computer and internet access at home or work and rely on public access at schools and libraries. Recommended are CTCs, or community technology centers, that provide computer access and training for a diverse culture.
The last chapter provides the reader with the authors' conclusion: "The start reality is that the majority of American youths are not conversant with digital tools, and their options may be increasingly bleak as a result" (p. 123). They point out that the salary gap between the highest and lowest skilled workers is widening, that computer access is highly correlated to household income, and that the impact of computing on education is likely to be profound. This book does not provide easy solutions, nor is it sanguine in its outlook. Rather this book challenges parents, educators, and community leaders to approach the technological revolution with eyes wide open.