This seminar will treat the relationship between crisis and perception of crisis in "the American family" from the present to the late 1800s, working backward through time.
Three 1-3 page, typed papers, designed to focus your thoughts for class discussions, will be due on 17 January, 31 January, and 21 February.
A somewhat longer research paper will be required (perhaps 10 pages or so). You must choose a time between 1850 and 1994 and a specific topic (divorce, teenage pregnancy, desertion, alcoholism, juvenile delinquency, etc.) that was perceived as a problem of the family at that time. You should do research in newspapers or periodicals to find out how that particular family "crisis" was portrayed at the time. You might also want to evaluate whether you think it was a crisis or not, and why. You should have a draft ready to present to an extended class session on March 7 (make plans now to be here at the time we decide on), and a final draft to hand in by Friday, March 10.
PART ONE: PERCEPTIONS OF CRISIS IN THE 1990s.
3 January: Organizational meeting. Discussion of the topic "what is happening to the American family in the 1990s?"
10 January: Read Newsweek, Nov. 1990, "What Happened to the Family" and selections from the 1994 "Republican Contract with America." Come to class ready to discuss the assumptions behind the provisions of the Family Reinforcement Act and the Personal Responsibility Act.
17 January: Read Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, "Dan Quayle was Right" (The New Republic, April 1993) and Stephanie Coontz, The Way We Never Were, Introduction and Chapter One: "The Way We Wish We Were: Defining the Family Crisis." Write 1-3 pages on the topic "Why do people perceive a crisis in the family at this historical moment," and come to class ready to advocate your views in a class discussion.
PART TWO: SPECIFIC PROBLEMS, SPECIFIC ALTERNATIVES
24 January: The Black Family. Read William Julius Wilson and Kathryn Neckerman, "Poverty and Family Structure," from Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged, 1987; and Robert Staples and Leanor Boulin Johnson, "Work and Money: the Struggle," from Black Families at the Crossroads, 1993. Come to class prepared to discuss the question, "Is the Black American underclass family pathological or functional?"
31 January: Gay and Lesbian Families. Read E.M. Ettorre, "The Social Reality of Lesbianism," in Lesbians, Women, and Society, chapter 2 (1980) , and Kath Weston, "Families we Choose," in Families We Choose, chapter 5 (1991). Write 1-3 pages on the topic, "Does the trend toward lesbian families in the 80s and 90s tell us anything about the general desirability or inevitability of the family," and come to class ready to discuss your views.
7 February: Utopian Critiques of the Family. Read Lawrence Foster, "That All May be One," from Religion and Sexuality, chapter 3 (1981) and Shulamith Firestone, "Alternatives," pp. 257-274 in The Dialectic of Sex (1970). Come to class prepared to discuss the question of whether the family seems necessary in light of these critiques.
PART THREE: THE CRISIS IN THE 1920s
Valentine's: General Lamentations and General Research. Read Ernest R. Mowrer, "Family Disintegration and the Confused Ideals of the Modern Family" (chapter 1) and "The Control of Family Disorganization (chapter 13) in Family Disorganization, 1927; and Willystine Goodell, "The Instability of the Family," chapter 7 in Problems of the Family, 1928.
21 February: The Issue of Divorce. Read Ernest R. Groves, "Divorce and Desertion," chapter 9 in Social Problems of the Family, 1927; and Ernest R. Mowrer, "Divorce in an Urban Community: Chicago," chapter 3 in Family Disorganization, 1927. (The foreword to that book was written by Ernest W. Burgess. They were all associated with the University of Chicago. Why were they all named Ernest?) Write 1-3 pages on either the question of "Is the long-term increase in divorce rates inevitable," or the question of "Is the long-term increase in divorce rates cause for concern," and come to class prepared to defend your views. Do not waste time writing on the topic "Did they call each other Ernie?"
PART FOUR: DISINTEGRATION AND CRISIS IN THE LATE 1800s.
28 Feb: Read Robert V. Wells, "Whither the Family: the Great Debate," in Revolutions in Americans' Lives, chapter 6; "Breakdown and Pathology," and "Creating and Coping with the 'Other Half'," from Donald M. Scott and Bernard Wishy, eds., America's Families: A Documentary History, 1982. Come to class prepared to discuss the question "How have things really changed?"
CONCLUSION: BRIEF PRESENTATIONS OF RESEARCH REPORTS (3 hours, Pizza Provided). 7 March, time to be negotiated.
Final papers due 10 March.