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Laboratory for terrestrial physics (SuDoc NAS 1.2:T 27/2) Unknown Binding – 1992


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  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center (1992)
  • ASIN: B0001096N6
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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First Sentence
Five years ago I wrote a book called The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed Ms. Coontz's previous book but found this one a disappointmet. "The past wasn't what we think it was and anyway we can't go back", is a useful starting point for debate on any social topic. The question on everyone's mind then becomes, "So what should we do now?". And unfortunately the author never addresses the fundamental of what might make for a good family. Why do people look back at the 50s as a golden age? Forget every television image and false theory, concentrate instead on two variables: parental involvement as measured by time and continuity of environment.
If Ms. Coontz had confined herself to these I think she would found her answer to why many people think children today are being shortchanged. Forget the question of whether such families are led by gays, lesbians, single parents, people who have remarried, etc. The fact is parents spend much less time today with their children, by all measures, and there's much less continuity whatever the situation.
"This is how things are today, deal with it", is not a solution or even a very sophisticated description of the problem. If one can imagine a world of diverse families it still stands to reason that the basic needs of children are probably similar and the author might spend some time spelling out what they are. That book has yet to be written. There's no reason a progressive couldn't write such a book but he or she would need a lot of courage.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
It�s OK to get divorced 31 Jan. 2004
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book describes factors playing for and against the well-being of families in the US today. The book seems to have 3 simultaneous goals: to describe and contrast the economic conditions of single- and two-parent heterosexual families, to provide self-help, support or guidance for two-parent families in crisis, and to suggest government policies to help American families thrive. Some of the topics covered in the book include: the idealization of the 1950s, working mothers, the future of marriage, divorce, traditions that should be abandoned, who's to blame for families in crisis, societal change and risk for kids, and the strengths and vulnerabilities for today's families.
The title of the book misled me a little. With a title like "The Way We Really Are", I expected the book to detail the kinds of families that exist in the US today. I was interested in learning how many families consist of adults with their own children, or with step children, or with no children, and how these numbers are changing. And how many families consist of homosexual couples with children, and is this number growing? How many families are nuclear families, and how many extended families do we find in the US today? Are there differences in these statistics according to race or ethnic background? What about family units that consist of divorced or widowed adults and in-laws, step-parents, or aunts or uncles? But that's not what this book is about. Most of the book deals exclusively with the economic well-being of single and two parent heterosexual nuclear families. Homosexual families are mentioned briefly in a few paragraphs towards the end of the book, and extended families receive no mention at all. Even when Coontz discusses two-parent families with a breadwinner and a homemaker, she always assumes that the breadwinner is a male, and doesn't consider or describe when it's the other way around, or provide statistics about female breadwinner families.
The main thesis of the book seems to be that many American families are in crisis today. The reasons for this are varied, from unrealistic idealization of the 1950s, to government policies that run counter to the needs of families. Coontz argues that right-wing groups that claim to be pro-family by stressing the need for children to be raised in families with 2 married parents may be unrealistic and actually work against the children's welfare.
While I found many of Coontz's arguments convincing, I think she could have gone further by giving a lot more thought to families and economic conditions in other parts of the world rather than confining her research and hypotheses strictly to the US. For instance, she suggests that during the industrial revolution in the US, there was a debate over "whether to protect women's interests by secluding them in the family, away from the rough-and-tumble competition of the capitalist market and political party system, or to grant women the same independent legal and political existence that white men had acquired, so they could claim their interests as a right." Coontz seems to be suggesting here that after the Civil War, women were being kept at home to protect them from market forces, and that that's why they weren't given property rights or allowed to open bank accounts on their own, etc. But given what we find in the rest of the world, I think it may have been the case that women were kept on the farm because of the common trend worldwide to try to keep women in seclusion, as can still be found today throughout the Muslim world, or parts of Asia. And property rights weren't restricted from women just because of industrialization- -I'm not sure, but I think there is a long history of such restrictions throughout European law, as well as in the rest of the world. On the other hand, she may have found support for her thesis that two parent families aren't a panacea in themselves if she had considered modern Japanese families, which very often consist of the two-parent, two child, male breadwinner ideal, and which are quite often completely dysfunctional when judged by American standards, in which we expect the parents to have healthy emotional ties to each other and the children. All in all, while Coontz has some interesting points, I would be more interested in seeing a book with a little less advice and a little more thought about all the various types of American families considered in a world-wide context.
24 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Umm...I Thnk Not 29 Jun. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed Ms. Coontz's previous book but found this one a disappointmet. "The past wasn't what we think it was and anyway we can't go back", is a useful starting point for debate on any social topic. The question on everyone's mind then becomes, "So what should we do now?". And unfortunately the author never addresses the fundamental of what might make for a good family. Why do people look back at the 50s as a golden age? Forget every television image and false theory, concentrate instead on two variables: parental involvement as measured by time and continuity of environment.
If Ms. Coontz had confined herself to these I think she would found her answer to why many people think children today are being shortchanged. Forget the question of whether such families are led by gays, lesbians, single parents, people who have remarried, etc. The fact is parents spend much less time today with their children, by all measures, and there's much less continuity whatever the situation.
"This is how things are today, deal with it", is not a solution or even a very sophisticated description of the problem. If one can imagine a world of diverse families it still stands to reason that the basic needs of children are probably similar and the author might spend some time spelling out what they are. That book has yet to be written. There's no reason a progressive couldn't write such a book but he or she would need a lot of courage.
The Way We Still Really Are; Still Current in 2014 3 Aug. 2014
By Chandler Adams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The sad part of reading this book is the realization that, for the most part, this is still the way we really are. Dr. Coontz offered numerous suggestions on ways to deal with the problems of the new family but hardly any have been implemented in the US. The writing is clear and easy to understand despite your level of knowledge on the subjects discussed. The author's later writings have been equally knowledgeable and accessible to laymen and experts alike. "Marriage, A History" is perhaps the best book available for a factual look at marriage from the beginning of human civilization till today. Dr. Coontz's authority on the subjects of family life and marriage has been well established. She provides an unbiased look at who, what, where, when, why and how. The what to do about it part is her gift with purchase. We need to pay attention.
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Good to a point 4 Jun. 2005
By Elizabeth A. Root - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
'Initially, Ms. Coontz builds a pretty impressive case for her point of view, backing it up with studies and statistics. Alas, about two thirds of the way through she begins to fall down: there is much more opinion and much less evidence. In most controversies, there is a large middle-of-the-road (MTR)contingent that forms the "swing vote" and sympathizes to a certain degree with both the extremes. Coontz seems to lose any understanding that she may have had of these people and her arguments accordingly become less likely to sway them. At this point I felt that she wasted all the good that she might have done.

Most people that I know see a difference between, for example, a family needing help because they have lost a bread-winner and one created by parents who not in a position to support their children from the beginning. The first family is seen as having played by the rules and suffered a misfortune and worthy of assistance. The latter parents are sometimes seen as cheats who did not make a reasonable effort to be self-sufficient and suffer the consequences of their actions. The MTRs may accept that it is wiser in long run, particularly given that children are involved, to assist these latter families, but balk at being asked to conceal their disapproval. I think that Ms. Coontz, and many of her colleagues in the social sciences, need to read up on evolutionary psychology and game theory. Even if one doesn't accept that human psychology is largely genetically determined, it does help explain the social uses of a lot of behavior. I can recommend Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature), which I happened to be reading when this thought hit me, especially "Part IV, Know Thyself", but there are plenty of other books. She doesn't seem to think that people respond to incentives and disincentives.

Certainly, we could decide, if we wanted to, that the government would give anyone who has a child an allowance sufficient to raise it, or, perhaps better, deliver services directly to the child, like public school. But is this to be offered only to certain families or to all families? It has been argued that, all things being equal, financial assistance to college punishes frugality and savings by giving assistance to people who have no money because they lived lavishly.

Coontz's logic seems to assume that the difference between Have and Have-Not is entirely a matter of luck whereas there are a lot of very unhappy wage-slaves, including me, who are working solely so that we can live a middle-class lifestyle. If that lifestyle is to be conferred gratis upon all comers, then why should we work? Then who will pay taxes to finance the programs Coontz wants? Further, I have read that the largest amount of welfare cheating is done by polygamists, i.e. men who have multiple wives and families that they cannot support. (See "The Secret Story of Polygamy" by Kathleen Tracy.) The wives make the fictitious claim that their children were fathered by someone who has deserted them and collect welfare. Does Coontz's respect for alternate family lifestyles include supporting polygamy?

The other major flaw, and I nearly threw the book across the room at this, is Coontz's argument that Social Security for childless people is a form of dole. (Let me say here that I don't pay Social Security, except for Medicare, and I'm not eligible to collect it.) She argues this because "the average person" get more out of Social Security than he/she puts into it. Well, I should hope so, considering that the government has everyone's money for decades! But even this "average" is questionable. I've seen this quoted several times, but not with any explanation of how it's calculated. I am told by someone who worked for the Social Security Administration, that the average is corrected to exclude benefits paid out to persons who may never pay in (such as the earliest beneficiaries and the disabled), but that it is not corrected for inflation, which can make an enormous difference over three or four decades. [added 2/20/11: The government is supposed to be investing Social Security funds to increase the amount available. Further, Coontz fails to consider the extent to which childless people, like me, subsidize other people's children. Approximately half my property taxes go to support the local schools; sixty-nine percent of all my county's expenditures are for education. In addition, I am paying for many programs that benefit children such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (known as WIC), playgrounds for children, reading programs at the library, etc. I am not objecting to paying any of these per se, I am only objecting to Coontz's tacit claim that assistance is a one way street for the childless.] I finished feeling very disgusted with Coontz, because having read the better parts of her book, I find it difficult to believe that this was an "innocent mistake."
Great book 23 Feb. 2014
By Sandra Sotomayor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Older- some outdated material. Still a great book. TINY TINY TINY font- makes reading it a chore. Unfortunate. Coontz is brilliant as usual.
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