Sunday, July 18, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: A Kind & Just Parent by William Ayers

Title: A Kind and Just Parent
Author: William Ayers
How I learned about this book? A relative.
How long did it take to read it? A couple of days.
Was it a hard read? Not at all.

I read this book in order to help a relative with a course he/she was taking. I know that there is some controversy with this particular author. Whatever your personal views on him and on politics is not welcome here. Lets strictly stick to discussing the book.


A Kind and Just Parent is a book about America’s (particularly Cook’s County (Chicago) which is located in Illinois) juvenile criminal system and the flaws within it. The book goes into the lives of several kids that are sent to “Audy Home” at Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. The kids at this juvenile detention center are waiting trial for tiny infractions of the law, like grand theft auto or as major as homicide. For one year, Ayers shows an account of his classroom, along with two other teachers (Mr. B and Tobs), the students describe their lives, analyze their situations, and think about their futures. Ayers uses this book to show us history, representations, analysis that help us understand not only what brought these kids into the court system, but why people find it hard to look at them as children. Ayers wants the reader to determine what “we” do, as a community, in order to keep our children from falling in the system and becoming apart of the vicious cycle of crime. Ayer’s main points of the book are as followed: Going over the history of what resulted into the juvenile justice system, the role the media plays regarding juvenile criminals, and what our society view as punishment. Ayer depicts the mindset of Jane Addams (a woman who advocated the establishment of a separate court system for children which would act like a "kind and just parent" for children in crisis) and gives the history and background of the juvenile system. This is a story of a justice system that started with good intentions, but has gone amuck. Regarding the media, the author feels that the media uses stories that echo to the audience anxieties and fears, not really explaining the analysis of the violent conditions in which the children find themselves. The author warns us that we need to be mindful that there is always something beneath the headline, beyond the spectacle. Regarding punishment, there was a quote that was expressed, “It’s hard to train for freedom in a cage.” Regarding punishments that we give to juvenile criminals, we do not rehabilitate them. If anything, we the government creates institutionalize criminals. The significance of the book to the field of juvenile justice has the government and society reflecting on how to cope with and respond to violence. By placing the appropriate individuals in the juvenile’s lives (where they be social workers, teachers, probation officers, etc.) that show them how to be strong without resorting in kind to destructive behavior. It is because of these reasons our society has these profound issues that seldom receive the sensitive consideration that the author accords them.

Would I buy it? No. Maybe if it was for a class or something.
Is it library worthy? Most definitely.

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