Children and Families "At Promise"

Deconstructing the Discourse of Risk

Edited by Beth Blue Swadener & Sally Lubeck

Subjects: Education
Series: SUNY series, The Social Context of Education
Paperback : 9780791422922, 304 pages, March 1995
Hardcover : 9780791422915, 304 pages, March 1995

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Table of contents


Christine E. Sleeter

The Social Construction of Children and Families "at Risk": An Introduction

Beth Blue Swadener and Sally Lubeck

I Deconstructing the "at Risk" Label

1. Children and Families "at Promise":Deconstructing the Discourse of Risk

Beth Blue Swadener

2. Mothers at Risk

Sally Lubeck

3. The Politics of Who's "at Risk"

Michelle Fine

II Children and Families at Promise

4. Voice Unaltered: Marginalized Young Writers Speak

Elizabeth Quintero and Mary Kay Rummel

5. "Motherwit": Childrearing Lessons from African American Mothers of Low Income

Donelda A. Cook and Michelle Fine

6. Exploding the Myths: African American Families at Promise

Mary Smith Arnold

7. Native Americans at Promise: Travel in Borderlands

Carolyne J. White

III Reconstructing Classrooms and Community Contexts

8. Learning in and out of School: Critical Perspectives on the Theory of Cultural Compatibility

B. Robert Tabachnick and Marianne N. Bloch

9. Creating a Classroom Culture of Promise: Lessons from a First Grade

Mary E. Hauser and Cynthia Thompson

10. Student Success: A Matter of Compatibility and Expectations

Joyce S. Waldoch

11. Advocating for Aric: Strategies for Full Inclusion

Lisa Leifield and Tina Murray

Naming and Blaming: Beyond a Pedagogy of the Poor

Valerie Polakow



This book shows how the labeling of children as "at-risk" actually perpetuates the inequities, racism, and discrimination facing many families in America.


This book critiques the currently popular "at-risk" construct, drawing from historical, contextual, critical, and personal perspectives. It provides an alternative context for viewing children and their families as "at-promise. " A basic premise of the book is that the generalized use of the "at-risk" label is highly problematic and often implicitly racist and classist—a 1990s version of the cultural deficit model that locates problems in individuals, families, and communities, rather than in institutional structures that create and maintain inequality. This book provides a needed interrogation and alternative context for viewing children and families caught in the extreme conditions facing many families in the United States.

Beth Blue Swadener is Associate Professor of Education, Kent State University. Beth Blue Swadener is Associate Professor of Education, Kent State University.


"In Children and Families 'At Promise': Deconstructing the Discourse of Risk we see how deconstructing the at risk label is inextricably linked to a critical analysis of pervasive poverty and exclusionary and discriminatory educational practices within our society. Many myths have been decoded in these chapters. The 'at promise' narratives present a countertext of possiblility and action. It is clear, in reading the accounts of successful classrooms in this book, that when classrooms do become landscapes of promise, they offer children a place where their selfhood matters, where they do find acceptance and possibility, and where they can become meaningmakers within their lifeworld of school. " — from the Epilogue by Valerie Polakow, author of Lives on the Edge: Single Mothers and Their Children in the Other America