Course Objectives:

  1. To expose you to scholarship and "real-life" experiences that when synthesized, will enhance your ability to identify and evaluate ideologies, institutions, and public policies that affect single women's experiences of motherhood.
  2. To enhance your theoretical understanding of such phenomena as the myth of meritocracy, unearned privilege, and systemic and internalized oppression by allowing you to identify, work within, and assess concrete instances of institutionalized injustice.
  3. To provide you with readings, discussions, writing assignments and service-learning experiences that will help you discover, articulate, and test the validity of your own definitions of "community," "civic engagement," and "responsible citizenship."
  4. To allow you to explore ways in which you could use your knowledge, talents, imagination, and empathy to make positive, meaningful contributions to the communities to which you belong.
  5. To give you the opportunity to learn with and from women whose lives in many ways may be quite different from your own.

* Katherine Arnoldi, The Amazing True Story of a Teenage Single Mom
** Nancy Jean King, "Stressed." Exhibited at the Fourth Annual Exhibition of Art by
Michigan Prisoners, Feb. 1999. University of Michigan, Rackham Galleries.

Required Texts:
Adair, Vivyan C. and Sandra L. Dahlberg, ed. Reclaiming Class: Women, Poverty, and
the Promise of Higher Education in America. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2003.
Arnoldi, Katherine. The Amazing "True" Story of a Teenage Single Mom. New York:
Hyperion, 1998.
Figueira-McDonald, Josefina and Rosemary C. Sarri, eds. Women at the Margins:
Neglect, Punishment, and Resistance. New York: Haworth P, 2002.

Gilens, Martin. Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of
Antipoverty Policy. Chicago: University of Chicago P, 1999.
Gonnerman, Jennifer. Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett. NY:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.
Lipper, Joanna. Growing Up Fast. New York: Picado/St. Martens P, 2003.
Ludtke, Melissa. On Our Own: Unmarried Motherhood in America. Berkeley: U of
California P, 1997.
Occasional handouts and in-class videos.

Course Requirements:

A reflective journal comprised of weekly essays in which you respond analytically to and seek to integrate information garnered from course readings, discussions, and service learning experiences. (40% of your final grade)

Active participation in class discussions and exercises. In addition to activities that take place in the classroom, during the semester you will be required to spend a minimum of 20 hours outside of class time working with parenting and pregnant teens who attend Easton High School and/or the single mothers who reside with their children at Third Street Alliance for Women and Children. You also may be asked to participate on Blackboard discussion boards. (15%)

A creatively designed, research-based presentation to one or both groups of single mothers and submission of an annotated bibliography of sources consulted. It is recommended that you work collaboratively on this presentation, which will be described in detail in a handout distributed early in the semester. (15%)

A carefully researched chapter to be incorporated into a Parenting Resource Manual for Single Mothers, preferably to be done in collaboration with one or two others in the class. Detailed instructions for this final course project will be distributed the third week of class. (30%)

Attendance Policy: You are permitted two absences. Beginning with the third absence, your final course grade will be lowered 1/3 of a letter grade for every absence. We'll try to stick to the syllabus as closely as possible, but will make adjustments if we decide we need to spend more or less time on a particular topic. If you miss class, it's your responsibility to make sure you know what to prepare for subsequent course sessions.

Plagiarism: It's unacceptable to present others' ideas as your own. You are responsible for abiding by the college's policies on academic honesty; anyone suspected cases of plagiarism will be reported to the Office of the Dean of Studies.

Tentative Schedule of Course Readings

T, 8/29
Introduction to one another and the course
Brief presentation by Ms. Kay Stocker, an Easton Hospital nurse who works closely with the teen moms at Easton High School

Th, 8/31
Ludtke, Chap. 1: "My Story: Decision-making About Unmarried Motherhood" (3-19) and Chap. 2: "Unmarried Motherhood: A Half-Century of Change" (20-33)
Video by and about former EAHS teen moms

T, 9/5
Ludtke, Chap. 3: "Having a Baby: Unmarried Adolescent Mothers"
Gilbert, "You're Not the Type"; Johnson, "Poverty, Hopelessness and Hope"; McIntosh,
"White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (these three short essays will be on reserve in the library)

Th, 9/7
Ludtke, Chap. 5: "Raising Children: Unmarried Adolescent Mothers"
Jensen, "Exploding the Stereotypes: Welfare"; Albelda and Tilly, "Farewell to Welfare but Not to Poverty"; Burnham, "Welfare Reform, Family Hardship, and Women of Color" (reserve)

T, 9/12
from Figueira-McDonough: Figueira-McDonough and Sarri, "Increasing Inequality: The Ascendancy of Neoconservatism and Institutional Exclusion of Poor Women" (5-27); Handler, "Welfare Reform: Tightening the Screws" (33-51); Pearce, "Welfare Reform Now That We Know It: Enforcing Women's Poverty and Preventing Self-Sufficiency" (125-46); Mulroy, "Low-Income Women and Housing: Where Will They Live?"(151-171)

Th, 9/14
from Figueira-McDonough: Luna & Figueira-McDonough, "Charity, Ideology, and Exclusion:
Continuities and Resistance in U.S. Welfare Reform" (321-41)
from Adair: Adair, "Disciplined and Punished: Poor Women, Bodily Inscription, and Resistance through Education" (25-49); Waldner, "If You Want Me to Pull Myself Up, Give Me Bootstraps" (97-109); Mitchell, "If I Survive, It Will Be Despite Welfare Reform: Reflections of a Former Welfare Student" (113-18)

T, 9/19
Arnoldi, The Amazing "True" Story of a Teenage Single Mom
from Adair: Megivern, "Not By Myself Alone: Upward Bound with Family and Friends" (119-30); Harris, "Choosing the Lesser Evil: The Violence of the Welfare Stereotype" (131-38); Madsen, "From Welfare to Academe: Welfare Reform as College-Educated Welfare Mothers Know It" (139-56); Almanza, "Seven Years in Exile" (157-65)

Th, 9/21
Lipper, Chapters 1-3 (1-133)

T, 9/26
Lipper, Chapters 4-6 (135-266)
from Figueira-McDonough: Walruff, "Teenage Pregnancy: Mediating Rotten Outcomes and Improving Opportunities" (229-44)

W, 9/27
Monthly "Lunch and Learn" sessions for the parenting and pregnant
girls at EAHS; if possible, you'll be attending one or more of the
50-minute sessions, which run from 10:30 a.m. -1:00 p.m.

Th, 9/28
Lipper, Chapters 5-8 (267-363)

F, 9/29
Presentation by Katherine Arnoldi, Interfaith Chapel, noon-1:00 p.m.
Evening pizza party and program with Arnoldi and local single moms
Please try to keep this evening free (c. 6-9 p.m.)

T, 10/3
Ludtke, Chap. 7 (284-338)
Brush, "'That's Why I'm on Prozac': Battered Women,
Traumatic Stress, and Education in the Context of Welfare Reform" (215-35)

Th, 10/5
Gilens, "The American Welfare State: Public Opinion and Public Policy" (11-30) and "Racial Attitudes, the Undeserving Poor, and Opposition to Welfare" (60-79)

T, 10/10

Th, 10/12
Video: Four [NYC] Welfare Case Studies (Point of View, 7/25/01)
Gilens, Chapter 5 (102-132)

T, 10/17
Gilens, Chapters 6-9 (133-216)

Th, 10/19
from Adair: Owens-Manley, "The Leper Keepers: Front-Line Workers and the Key to Education for Poor Women" (196-213); Dahlberg, "Survival in a Not So Brave New World" (67-84); Moody, "To Be Young, Pregnant, and Black: My Life as a Welfare Coed" (95-96); Dahlberg, "Families First—but Not in Higher Education" (169-93)

T, 10/24
Discussion of presentation plans and drafts of Resource Manual chapters.

Th, 10/26
Lunch and/or class session with Professor Rebecca Kissane (A & S), whose research focuses on the welfare system.
Kissane, "Responsible but Uninformed: Nonprofit Executive and Program Directors' Knowledge of Welfare Reform" (H)

T, 10/31
from Figueira-McDonough: Whitley and Dressel, "The Controllers and the Controlled" (103-120); Pimlott and Sarri, "The Forgotten Group: Women in Prisons and Jails" (55-79); Burke, "Triple Jeopardy: Women Marginalized by Substance Abuse, Poverty, and Incarceration" (175-95)

Th, 11/2
from Figueira-McDonough: Ascione and Dixson, "Children and Their Incarcerated Mothers" (271-91); LaBelle, "Women, the Law, and the Justice System: Neglect, Violence, And Resistance" (347-68)
Video on women who commit violent crimes

T, 11/7
Crittendon, "How to Bring Children Up Without Putting Women Down" (H)
from Figueira-McDonough: Sarri and Figueira-McDonough, "Whither the Twenty-First Century for Women at the Margins: Resistance and Action" (407-17); Finn, "Borders and Bridges: Building New Directions for the Women's Movement" (375-97)

Th, 11/9
Workshop on presentations and final course projects

T, 11/14
Ludtke, Chap. 4: "Having a Baby: Unmarried Older Mothers" (102-61) and Chap. 6: "Raising Children: Unmarried Older Mothers" (236-83)

Th, 11/16
Ludtke, Chap. 8: "Where's Daddy: Unmarried Older Mothers" (339-408) and Chap. 9: "Unmarried Mothers: Who We Are and Where We're Headed" (409-434)

Readings TBA
Deadline for submitting final draft of Resource Manual chapter orother kinds of course projects


Gonnerman, pages TBA
Construction of Resource Manual
Summing Up and Course Evaluations

The Reflective Journal

Most Tuesdays during the semester, I'll be asking you to submit a four-page, typed, double-spaced essay in which you record and reflect upon the most important things that you've learned during the past week. Since the service component of the course won't begin until about three weeks into the semester, your initial journal entries will focus primarily on assigned readings and class discussions (though I'll also be asking you to identify some of the assumptions and expectations you have about single mothers and will urge you to reflect on relationships you already have with such women).

When responding to the readings, you should make note of some of the key arguments, theories, and factual claims you're encountering. You can do this "summarizing" in a narrative, in "bullet" form, and/or by quoting key statements or statistics. After recording arguments and facts you consider important, you should reflect on that information. You might ponder the validity of a generalization, explain why particular pieces of information surprised or troubled you, identify ways in which one person's "take" on a topic differs from or resembles the perspective articulated by another person, discuss how readings do or don't mesh with what you've learned from firsthand experience, from the media, or from other coursework. You don't need to write about every essay that's assigned—but you should try to identify the main points or common threads in a given day's readings.

Once we begin working with local single mothers at Easton High School and at Third Street Alliance, your reflective journal will be a place where you can synthesize scholarly and experiential knowledge. I'd still like you to draw attention to some of the main points in the readings, but your emphasis will be on identifying ways in which your firsthand interaction with single mothers validates—or calls into question—the claims you?ve encountered in written texts. Ideally, the readings will help you notice and make sense of some things you see and hear in the service-learning environment—conversely, your conversations with the mothers should help you better understand and assess the written materials.

The reflective journal also is a place in which to raise questions and concerns and to ponder your emotional as well as intellectual response to course activities. Are there subjects about which you'd like more information? Ideas that others seem to endorse that you yourself consider problematic? Issues about which you're feeling quite confused?Interactions with classmates or with those in the service-learning environment that you're finding troubling or stressful?

Finally, keep in mind that there is no set or "ideal" format for this journal. I'll give you lots of feedback on the early entries so you can figure out what works best for you. If you think it would be useful, I'll also distribute copies of 2 or 3 different kinds of weekly entries that do a great job of fulfilling the threefold goal of recording, reflecting, and synthesizing.

Your first set of journal entries, due Tues. 9/5, will consist of the two assignments listed below.

  1. Your assignment for Thurs., 8/31—to be done BEFORE you do the assigned readings: Imagine that on Thurs. a high school junior and a high school senior, both of whom have 10-month old babies, are going to come to our class to tell you about how they became pregnant and what their experiences of being student-mothers have been like so far.

    Page 1: Write a couple of paragraphs in which you speculate about the kinds of things the girls might tell you about the two subjects listed above. You also could jot down questions you'd like to pose to our two visitors.

    Page 2: Ask two friends who aren't in this class—one male and one female—to tell you what they think of when they hear the phrase "teenage mom." Record their comments.

    Page 3: Write a couple of paragraphs about single mothers (of any age) that you know fairly well. If you haven't had much interaction with single mothers, speculate about why this might be the case.
  2. Your assignment for Tues., 9/5:What are the most important things you learned from reading the first three chapters of Ludtke and from watching the video made by a former EAHS mom? Did any of the information contained in these two texts really surprise you? impress you? irritate you? confuse you? Did the two texts contradict each other in any important way? Having read Ludtke and seen the video, what strikes you as interesting about the entry you wrote for 8/31? Conclude by composing two questions you'd like the class to discuss (or continue discussing).

Instructions for the Major Course Project

For your major project, you are to create—collaboratively—a Parenting Resource Manual that will be useful to the single mothers with whom we've been working. You may work individually or in groups on specific topics and "chapters"; I'll leave the exact nature of the collaborative process up to you. When researching the subjects you've selected, consult a wide range of sources to try to insure that the information you present is accurate and up-to-date. And of course, I'll expect you to properly cite all borrowings from secondary sources, including websites.

Remember that the audience for this manual is diverse. A few of the high school students are pregnant mothers-to-be who might be interested in information on prenatal care. The other high school teen moms will be most interested in issues related to parenting infants and toddlers, whereas the older women at TSA will want information on parenting children ages 3 through 16. Your audience is also diverse in terms of socio-economic class: most of the single moms we're working with are from low-income families, but this isn't the case with all of the moms. You also should keep issues of race and national origin in mind. For example, if you want to create a list of recommended children's books, be sure that the authors and characters represent a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Similarly, if you are presenting information on domestic violence hotlines, you should note numbers for Spanish-speaking as well as English-language callers.

As we've discussed often throughout the semester, it's important to find out what kinds of support and information the single mothers are interested in receiving rather than assuming we know best what they need. They've expressed interest in the Parenting Resource Manual and have mentioned some topics that they want to know more about. Some of their suggestions are listed on the next page; in the coming weeks, please talk with the mothers and continue adding to the list. You also might want to consult TSA's Director of Resident Services and the nurse, social worker, and guidance counselor who mentor the high school students, since these persons have had countless conversations with the moms. Keep in mind that I don't expect you to produce chapters on every single subject that comes up! What you're going to be doing is making a substantial start on a resource manual that can be added to by students who take this course in the future.

Hopefully, you'll be able to find topics to research that interest you as well as the single mothers. And I imagine that as you work on the manual, you'll not only learn a lot about mothering and motherhood, but also will become much more familiar with the services available (or not available) to single mothers in the city of Easton. In other words, you'll be learning a lot about the public policies, institutions, and systems of power and privilege that have a profound influence on the quality of life experienced by single mothers and their children. And you'll continue to learn with and from the single mothers, many of whom (as you've already discovered) have skills, knowledge, and a degree of resourcefulness that most "traditional" college students don't have.

Final drafts of the resource manual chapters will be due two weeks before the end of the semester so we'll have time to duplicate, bind, and disseminate the manual. Feel free to "decorate" your chapters with line drawings and simple emblems, but keep in mind that the photocopying machine will not reproduce colored ink or do a good job with photos.

Most likely, we'll run each chapter off on a different color of paper. And we'll be putting the material in a 3-ring notebook, so make the left-hand margin bigger than the right. We'll discover and deal with other mechanical details as you work on the project. And of course, we'll discuss more substantive issues; periodically I'll be asking you to submit drafts of your chapters so we can identify and address concerns–whether these be questions about the reliability of sources, strategies for effectively organizing ideas, or ways to make your writing more lively or concise.

Here are some topics in which the single moms have expressed interest; I'm sure you'll have other subjects to add to the list. FYI, the order in which the items appear is random.

  • OB/Gyn issues: pap smears, STDs, breast exams, contraception (types, reliability, proper use of, cost, places where they're available), etc.
  • Eating disorders: causes, ways to address effectively, support groups
  • Other health issues: coping with stress, depression, high blood pressure, drug abuse, etc.
  • Subsidized housing in the area: addresses and phone numbers, sizes and costs of units, length of time on wait lists, how to qualify, etc.
  • Good and affordable childcare centers, esp. ones that accept Title 20 vouchers
  • Abortion and adoption services in the area
  • Advice on writing a resume, interviewing, job hunting, applying to local colleges and pre-professional programs
  • Free and inexpensive things to do (with and without the kids): local fairs and festivals; locations, operating hours, and children's events of local library branches; recreational programs run by the city (e.g., free childcare and supervised play at select playgrounds on summer mornings); plays, concerts, talks, and children's programs on local college campuses...
  • Titles of good children's books
  • Neonatal care, breastfeeding, making homemade baby food
  • Information on the stages of child development and appropriate activities and toys for each stage
  • Child and adult nutrition
  • Childproofing a home and child discipline
  • Information on dating and domestic violence—warning signs, how to get help, etc.
  • A cookbook containing easy-to-make, inexpensive recipes, plus suggestions about how to save time and money when grocery shopping and planning/preparing meals
  • Other money-saving tips: making educational toys, finding good-quality used car seats, using coupons and shopping sales, discounts on bus passes, etc.

Note: Some of you might decide to conduct research that will benefit the single mothers but would not be appropriate for inclusion in the manual; in these cases we'll work out project details as we go.

Instructions for the Oral Presentation

At some point during the second half of the semester, you will create a 20-30 minute presentation for one or both groups of single mothers. You may do the presentation by yourself if you'd like, but you'll probably find it easier to "instruct and entertain" if you work with one or more partners. That way you and your partners can share the work of researching a topic and designing a creative, interesting way to present the information. For example, you might want to do a skit, use a "Jeopardy" or "Wheel of Fortune" format, or invent a game for your audience to play.

Ideally, the subject on which you do your presentation will be the same one that you're conducting research on for the Parenting Resource Manual. For example, if you've decided to do the grocery shopping/cookbook option, you might create a pricing game that illustrates that buying items in bulk is generally cheaper than buying in smaller units (assuming, of course, that one has the money to buy the bigger item, which isn't always the case). Or you might conduct a mini cooking class in which members of your audience get practice packaging up portions of lasagna for safe and effective freezing (after sampling the dish!) or make one of the recipes in your cookbook (chicken caesar salad, a Chinese stirfry, homemade baby food).

If you selected the resume-writing/job interviewing option, you and your partner(s) could create a skit that would provoke discussion about what to do/not to do when interviewing for a job. You could address "dress code" issues, the importance of finding out about health care benefits and/or sick days (the latter often used when the baby?not the mom–is sick), the importance of being on time for the appt., how to respond to inappropriate questions, etc. If you're sharing information about free and inexpensive things to do in the Easton area, you could create a "Where in the Lehigh Valley is Carmen San Diego?" game to let your audience know the location of various events, libraries and churches, parks, etc. If you're doing a topic like dating and domestic violence, your presentation may not be "fun" in the way the above presentations are intended to be—but you do need to think about how to engage your audience and find ways to avoid talking at rather than with the moms.

In short, let your imaginations run wild when figuring out how to share with the moms a few bits of the information you're gathering. Hopefully, these presentations will be so engaging and memorable that the moms will want to read more about the subject once they receive the manual!

As usual, I'm flexible—if you want to do a presentation on one topic and a research manual chapter on another topic, feel free to do so. And you can have one set of partners on the presentation and another set on the manual; take whatever approach is most enjoyable and educational for you.