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Teachers College, Columbia University
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A. Lin Goodwin

A. Lin Goodwin

Injustice Writ Small


By Siddhartha Mitter


The reminder that the United States has the highest rates of child poverty among 19 industrialized countries comes early in Promoting Social Justice for Young Children (Springer, 2011), co-edited by Beatrice S. Fennimore, professor of education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and A. Lin Goodwin, education professor and Vice Dean at TC. Between poverty, health care and a public failure to safeguard their rights, “children have become the most vulnerable subgroup in the United States,” writes contributor Valerie Polakow. 

The book’s 14 chapters cover a broad scope. Sections on empowering parents and communities and developing education methods that incorporate a social justice commitment are balanced by chapters on specific issues such as the sexualization of childhood, or the impact of the past decade’s long overseas wars on America’s children. A cluster of chapters addresses issues in the education of immigrant children—from dealing with the reality of families where some members are undocumented, but not others, to the problems with the pervasive habit (sometimes initiated by the parents themselves) of Americanizing the names of children to make them appear less “alien.”

Still another thread deals with how to prepare teachers to recognize and advance social justice concerns. A chapter on teacher preparation by TC faculty member Celia Oyler discusses, for instance, the ways teachers of young children can shift from “deficit constructions” of what children lack to “capacity constructions” of what children can do. Contributors Beth A. Ferri and Jessica Bacon present the value of disability studies in preparing teachers to identify and overcome “ableism” in their practices.

All the writings in the book are linked by the axiom that children have rights, but in the United States those rights are all too often unfulfilled. The editors point out the country is one of only three members of the United Nations not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which came into force in 1990. (The other two are Somalia and South Sudan.) The burden of advancing children’s rights thus falls on caregivers and educators in the classroom and community. “[We] have a lot we must do before every child in our rich and resource-full country can be entitled to a basic level of care and social support,” writes Goodwin in the conclusion. This volume shows some of the ways forward.



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