The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap “Leave It to Beaver” was not a documentary, Stephanie Coontz points out; neither the. By Stephanie Coontz In , I published The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap, a search for the supposed. The Way We Never Were has ratings and reviews. Wealhtheow said: Coontz presents the historical facts of American family life and political and.

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This myth-shattering examination of two centuries of American family life banishes the misconceptions about the past that cloud current debate about “family values.

The Way We Never Were: American Families & the Nostalgia Trap

Without minimizing the serious new problems in American families, Coontz warns that a consoling nostalgia for a largely mythical past of “traditional values” is a trap that can only cripple our capacity to solve today’s problems. From “a man’s home was his castle” to “traditional families never asked for a handout,” this provocative book explodes cherished illusions about the past.

Organized around a series of myths and half-truths that burden qe families, the book sheds new light on such contemporary concerns awy parenting, privacy, love, the division of labor along gender lines, the black family, feminism, qe sexual practice.


In the nineteenth century, the age of sexual consent in some states was nine or ten, and alcoholism and drug abuse were more rampant than today Teenage childbearing peaked in the fabulous family-oriented s Marriages in pioneer days lasted a shorter time than they do now.

Placing current family dilemmas in the context of far-reaching economic, political, and demographic changes, The Way We Never Were shows that people have not suddenly and inexplicably “gone bad” and points to ways that we can help families do better.

The Way We Never Were – Author Stephanie Coontz

Seeing our own family pains as part of a larger social predicament means that we can stop the cycle of guilt or blame and face the real issues constructively, Coontz writes. The historical evidence reveals that families have always been in flux and often in crisis, and that families have been most successful wherever they have built meaningful networks beyond their own boundaries.

Placing the American family in its historical, cultural, economic, and philosophic context Coontz co-ed. Two models of the Doontz family have been on view in this political season. The family Clinton has presented itself as an up-to-date survivormodel, replete with storytelling about family trouble – the beaming young couple who have worked past their problems, the working mother of the candidate, the once drug-addicted and imprisoned brother.

The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap – Stephanie Coontz – Google Books

The family Bush has appeared as a more traditional survivor family with a similar persistence xoontz love and loyalty in the face of loss and pain, and yet, being “traditional,” accoutered with all sorts of Little-League and car-pool nostalgia. Oh, we families had a jolly time in the ’50s, living and breathing, family values, whatever those are.


Such happy, moral days: This was not just Leave It To Beaver.

This was the real thing. Of course, in order to play this American Family Dream Game, you really did have to be white and middle class. Stephanie Coontz can’t thank Dan Quayle enough.

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American Families and the Nostalgia Trap when Quayle blasted television character Murphy Brown for choosing to become a single mother. There was Quayle, conjuring up a nostalgic vision of “traditional” American values sustained by “traditional” families that looked very much like s sitcom icons.

And there was Coontz, the Evergreen State College professor of history and family studies, using history to demonstrate that Quayle’s vision was a seductive myth. Photo of book cover.

Click to enlarge image.