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Constructing Failure, Narrating Success: Rethinking the “Problem” of Teen Pregnancy

by Katherine Schultz - 2001

In this article I argue that either the anticipation or the reality of pregnancy and motherhood shaped young women’s participation in their senior year in a multiracial urban high school. In my interviews and analyses of public writing and classroom talk, I discovered frequent references to motherhood as young women made ambitious plans for their futures at the same time they worried about children. The article contrasts the discourses of adolescent pregnancy in the mainstream press to the narratives of low-income young women of color in my study. There is a paradox in the narratives I collected: Females without children claimed they could only succeed if they managed to avoid becoming pregnant. Young mothers in the same peer group explained their success or persistence in school as due, in part, to their children. These stories belie simple explanations of the success or failure of females of color living in poverty. The media contentions that these youth don’t care, that they have resorted to drugs, babies, and dropping out, fail to acknowledge the complexity of the identities of adolescents living in poverty. In their lives, these young women are actively turning others’ constructions of them as failures in to their own narratives of success. I suggest that educators and policy makers use students’ conceptions of the role that pregnancy and motherhood play in their school careers and futures to rethink the “problem” of teen pregnancy and to reimagine and redefine the opportunity structures available for young women in high school and beyond.

In this article I argue that either the anticipation or the reality of pregnancy and motherhood shaped young women's participation in their senior year in a multiracial urban high school. In my interviews and analyses of public writing and classroom talk, I discovered frequent references to motherhood as young women made ambitious plans for their futures at the same time they worried about children. The article contrasts the discourses of adolescent pregnancy in the mainstream press to the narratives of low-income young women of color in my study. There is a paradox in the narratives I collected: Females without children claimed they could only succeed if they managed to avoid becoming pregnant. Young mothers in the same peer group explained their success or persistence in school as due, in part, to their children. These stories belie simple explanations of the success or failure of females of color living in poverty. The media contentions that these youth don't care, that they have resorted to drugs, babies, and dropping out, fail to acknowledge the complexity of the identities of adolescents living in poverty. In their lives, these young women are actively turning others' constructions of them as failures into their own narratives of success. I suggest that educators and policy makers use students' conceptions of the role that pregnancy and motherhood play in their school careers and futures to rethink the "problem" of teen pregnancy and to reimagine and redefine the opportunity structures available for young women in high school and beyond.

At the end of her senior year in high school, Jo wrote the following message in her friend Aster's yearbook.i It was a variation of the message that she wrote in the yearbook of nearly every African American female classmate, and it reflected the talk I frequently heard between the Black female students in the urban high school where I conducted research.

To Aster,

We Finally made It out of [high school]. Don't Let Daniel Put Any Kids on you. Alway keep your head up and Dont let anyone Bring you Down. Stay In School. Become a Big Black sucessful Black woman!

Much Love,


Two years later Jo had completed the requirements to become a licensed cosmetologist, worked for a year in a hair salon, and begun courses at the local community college in law and criminal justice to become a lawyer. Her first child was born when Jo was not yet 20, during her first semester of community college. Without missing a beat, she decided not to marry the baby's father and to remain in her mother's apartment. Jo's high school friend, Aster, remained at a local state university, with a steady boyfriend, a job in a clothing store, and no children of her own.

In this article, I argue for the importance of including the perspectives of youth such as Jo and Aster in the public dialogue about teaching and learning in high schools. I contrast the discourses of the high school students with those in the media to suggest that we begin to formulate policies and practices that account for youths' complex understandings of the consequences of having a child during their high school years. Many of the youth I spoke with had tentative plans for their future with alternatives in mind in the event they had a child. First, I contrast this perspective with the prevalent assumption that teen pregnancy brings with it the forgone conclusion of dropping out of school, poverty, and failure. Second, I suggest that in contrast to media representations of teen pregnancy as a sign of failure or dysfunction, for some young women, the presence of children in their lives motivates them to stay in school and work toward a career in order to support their children. Finally, I propose that the supposition that school-age youth have babies out of hopelessness and academic failure needs to be seen as only one possibility—these pregnancies are sometimes planned. The "problem" of teen pregnancy can be reinterpreted as a different set of choices that are at variance with the White middle-class norm in terms of timing. In my description of the perspectives of a group of urban high school-age women, I show how children—both their presence and absence, both the reality and the possibility—figure into the future plans of this group of high school students. All too often, rather than accounting for the perspectives .brought by youth, discussions with and about teen parents begin with media representations that are punitive and condemning. I suggest that the understandings articulated by youth should be incorporated into discussions in high school classrooms, the preparation of new teachers, the professional development of experienced teachers and the policy-making conversations of educators, researchers, and legislators.

Through a focus on the perspectives and experiences of three high school students in conjunction with those of their peers, I suggest some ways that both the idea and the reality of children and motherhood shaped young women's participation in their senior year at an urban multiracial high school. In this final year of high school, students held on to seemingly contradictory narratives—that parenthood would prevent them from achieving a middle-class lifestyle and that it was desirable to have children at a relatively young age. Once pregnant, young women who had vociferously argued against teen pregnancy changed their narratives to accommodate their new reality. For these young women who had persisted in school until 12th grade, pregnancy and the birth of a child sometimes acted as a motivation to graduate. The presence of children in their lives and the responsibility they felt as new parents gave them new reasons to resist the peer pressure to drop out of school. Too often, pregnancy during high school is a signal for school personnel and families to abandon young women, designating them as school failures. The young women in this study suggest alternative perspectives. Narrow definitions of femininity, restricted notions of the options available to women once they become pregnant, normative views of the "correct timing of parenthood" and the effects of pregnancy on the lives of young women, all serve to limit our visions as educators, policy makers and community members and keep us from observing and noticing the complexity of students' lives. We may be further insuring the failure of many urban youth by silencing conversations and giving up on youth too quickly once they become pregnant rather than providing support for them. I suggest that educators and policy makers use students' understandings of the role that pregnancy and motherhood play in their school careers and futures to rethink the "problem" of teen pregnancy and the opportunity structures for young mothers in high school and beyond.


In the fall of 1993, I began a longitudinal, ethnographic research project in an urban high school in Northern California. The project was originally designed to understand the literacies and identities low-income urban adolescent females learned in their homes, communities, schools, and workplaces. Accordingly, I sought to understand these young women's aspirations and notions of success as they spoke and wrote about their identities and their futures. I wanted to add their voices, as poor women of color, to the research literature on school-to-work transitions, a literature that, for the most part, has been focused on the school lives of White males.ii In order to collect the narratives I describe in this article, I spent 3 to 5 days a week for an entire year in an urban, comprehensive high school. Situated between Black and Latino neighborhoods and surrounded by a high fence with a single gate monitored by a security guard, the school housed a multiracial group of students who were approximately one-third African American, one-third Mexican American or Latino/a, and one-third Asian American. Seventy-nine percent of the students in this school came from families on AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). Neither the school nor the district maintained accurate dropout and retention statistics, but the population of the school tended to be transient. Students described the auditorium as overflowing when they met as 10th graders in their 1st year of high school. As graduating seniors, they barely filled half the room. Numbers confirm this visual impression: There were 716 students in the 10th grade class and, 2 years later, 354 in the senior class. Thus, the seniors I talked with were the survivors; they were resilient students determined to graduate.iii During their high school years, I attended two senior government classes and, once a week, an advisory period and English class with many of the same students. After their graduation, I went to their homes, postsecondary schools, and workplaces such as beauty colleges, grocery stores, and data entry offices, to continue systematic observations and interviews.

Data collection included participant observation, the collection of written documents, open-ended and semistructured interviews with most of the females in the two classes, more frequent interviews with about 20 other students and teachers during the 1st year, and regular interviews with 10 focal students over a period of 4 years. The 10 focal students were representative of the females in this class: two had become mothers in their junior year of high school and returned to school during summer school to graduate with their class; another two became pregnant during their first two years out of high school. The remaining six were childless three years after their high school graduation.

For this research, I combine macro-level analyses of curriculum and instruction, community and culture, with micro-level investigations of oral and written discourse inside and around an urban high school. In my search for patterns, the thematic prominence of pregnancy and motherhood immediately became apparent. Whereas only four females had children or became pregnant during the time of my study, nearly every young woman talked about pregnancy and motherhood at some point, as either a reality, an event to avoid at all costs, or a future possibility.iv

I began my research as a participant observer in the social studies classroom of Andrea O'Neill, a teacher my age who, like me, is a White, middle-class female. Although I had no responsibilities for their instruction, as a former teacher, I fell quickly in to teacher-like patterns of interaction with the students. The students responded by viewing me first as a teacher and later as an interested observer, note-taker and interviewer. They later told me that they had decided to trust me right away because their teacher, whom they both liked and respected, made it clear in her words and actions that I was "okay." In addition, I had not made any mistakes early on. During the second year, when my research led me from the school into their homes and workplaces, some of the students told me that they considered me a friend and mentor; they saw me as someone who was willing and able to help them in a variety of circumstances. Our interviews took place as I transported them to doctors' appointments or to the drugstore to buy diapers and as they practiced for their exams by fixing up my hair or doing my nails. My presence in their lives was one of many factors that affected their daily decisions.

I cannot disentangle whether these young women told me stories about the ways that pregnancy and motherhood—or fears of those conditions— shaped their visions of the future because of who I am or because of our shared standpoints. On some levels, I had little in common with these young women and, at first glance, my White, middle-class life, centered around my family with three young children and my life as a teacher educator and researcher at the university, seemed light-years away from their own. On the other hand, we shared interests and concerns as women and, in some instances, as mothers. As an ethnographer, I worked hard to form relationships during the school year that would continue after their graduation. I had relatively easy access to their lives during the time they attended classes in the high school. Once out of high school, graduates' availability for interviews and meetings was contingent on trust, friendship, and their belief in the research project. The young women in the study allowed me to establish relationships with them in different ways and for a variety of reasons. Some saw me as a resource or source of information and knowledge that they used as they made decisions and looked for schools and jobs. Others enjoyed talking, or more precisely having someone to listen to them. A few valued the connection with someone from the university, whereas most simply thought I seemed trustworthy. More than a handful felt that I might write their stories in a book and that these stories would be useful to teachers and other people whom they saw as powerful or influential. In general, I worried more than they did about the boundaries of race, ethnicity, class, and age that might stand between us (Schultz, 1997).


Public discussion of teenage pregnancy is a regulated discourse—regulated by the media, by adult professionals, and by young women themselves. There is a narrow range of acceptable ways to talk about issues of teen pregnancy and childbearing in high school classrooms, in teacher education programs, and on the floor of Congress. Public discussion of teen pregnancy began in the 1970s. Before that time the discussion was absent from most public spaces, and pregnant young women, particularly those who were unmarried, were carefully hidden until their children were born. They were rarely talked or written ^bout; the gaze of the media, like that of the public, was averted.

As the discourse of teen pregnancy has entered the public sphere, it has been circumscribed and shaped by the ways in which the media have portrayed and written about youth in poverty and communities of color. This discourse in the media has a regulatory function that is both internalized and contested by the youth themselves (Pillow, 1997). As Walkerdine and Lucey (1989) observe

The sciences claim to describe a population in order that they can better be governed. The rise of sciences therefore is not simply about academic disciplines, but, as we shall see, it is about the development of specific practices through which families, mothers, children, might be "known" in order to better regulate them. . . . However, as in all struggles for power, this knowledge is constructed out of an uneasy compromise. . . . Regulation is not neutral, but is about a knowledge which suppresses and silences other "knowledges" in producing its own vision, (p. 34)

In order to examine the various discourses of teen pregnancy, I introduce three young women and propose we add their experiences and understandings to the dominant and regulated discourses of the media. Although these discourses offer new and different perspectives, the youth's own discourses are regulated by what they hear from the media, their families, communities, teachers, and peers. I offer these perspectives as "knowledge" this group of young women might add to the conventional assumptions about of pregnancy and motherhood. It can be argued that this "knowledge" has been suppressed and controlled to perpetuate limited understandings of the role that pregnancy plays in the lives of school-age youth. A poststructuralist framework allows us to see the ways that individuals are continually shaped by discursive practices even as they remake those practices in their daily lives (Davies, 1993). I argue for the importance of bringing the voices and perspectives of youth into the discussions and decisions about their education. In the narratives that follow, young women assert the salience of decisions about motherhood in their lives as they struggle with and create knowledge about teen pregnancy.


The mood of the late 1960s is captured by Campbell's (1968) statement, "When a 16 year old girl has a child . . . 90 percent of her life's script is written for her." (p. 242). That assumption is still prevalent today. In the media and popular press, there tends to be a single message for youth about pregnancy: Don't get pregnant. This message was echoed by the school staff through their words, their texts, and the posters on the walls. Although that is certainly the best single piece of advice, the youth themselves have more complex understandings based on the contingencies of their lives.

A poster designed by the Children's Defense Fund was plastered on the wall in the high school health clinic. The image and the message were simple. Two teenagers were seated in chairs. The teen on the left was visibly pregnant; the teen on the right was not. The caption at the bottom stated, "The student on the right (the one who is not pregnant) will graduate first." Well intentioned posters such as this one allow school officials and the wider community to give up on young women who have children. The young women I interviewed who had children and made the decision to graduate from high school, and those who had children soon after their graduation, refused to let their families, their peers, and society give up on them. At the same time that this simple poster captures public sentiment, it whites out the particularities of young women's lives.

Although the media tend to portray a single path for youth who become pregnant, the young women I spoke with imagined more possibilities. Young women without children claimed to strive for success by avoiding childbearing in their youth. At the same time, young mothers explained their success or persistence in school as due, in part, to their children. These young women saw children as part of a larger, more complex picture, not the end of a story. At the same time that pregnancy and motherhood shaped who they were, the young women were in the process of defining the ways children would and did have an impact on their lives.

In both my interviews and analyses of their public writing and classroom talk, I discovered frequent references to motherhood as the young women made ambitious plans for their futures and worried about the possibilities of becoming pregnant and bearing children. They wrestled with competing discourses. Students who were not yet pregnant often appeared to be holding their breath, hoping to graduate before they had a child. The most ambitious students frequently asserted that they would never have children, that they could not be both successful and a parent. These were not simple narratives of the future. Rather, the young women I spoke with often held on to several, frequently contradictory, stories.

The case of an African American student, Theresa, provides an illustration of the ways that youth are sometimes able to construct and reconstruct their lives and provides an alternate narrative to the conclusion that there is a single destination for them once they become pregnant. Theresa was an extremely resistant student in danger of failing 11th grade because she avoided many assignments. During more than one semester, she refused to read a single book assigned by her teachers. Her English teacher could not recall a single paper or word that Theresa had been willing to revise. Her family did not have much money and lived in a single-family two-floor home on a neighborhood street not far from the high school. Theresa described her childhood as "hard." Her father had recently passed away after a long period of instability linked to the time he spent as a soldier in Vietnam. During the time that I spoke with her, Theresa's mother was frequently sick. Her brother had been recently killed in a drug skirmish. Her sister frequently dropped her own child off for her mother, and often Theresa, to care for. In addition, Theresa struggled academically. Her reading skills were weak and she labored both to decode and comprehend the reading required for high school. Her resistant and tough affect seemed to keep teachers and counselors from reaching out to her. She entered the room with an aura of self-confidence that was easily punctured, evoking anger and resistance. She was the kind of student who needed strong and sustained academic support, yet she held herself back from teachers and counselors, maintaining her distance with the illusion of self-sufficiency.

In her senior year, as graduation seemed possible, Theresa became more engaged in school. On a daily basis, she changed her mind about whether she would attend a proprietary school that specialized in business, a local community college, or a state university. She had few models of success or resilience in her life. She simply did not have much information about the realities of a career path that would lead to her goal of a middle-class life. When asked about her future career choices, she replied that she would pursue both medicine and law at the same time. She was quick to explain that this unusual plan was to insure that if she grew bored with one career she could switch to the other. At times, she described her future career as one in which she would practice medicine and law on alternate days.

The school district had recently enacted a rule that students must pass a set of competency exams in order to graduate. Theresa began her senior year with three exams to pass. During the first semester she passed the writing and math exams and failed the reading exam multiple times. By the end of the school year, Theresa was determined to be the first in her family to graduate from high school. After she was accepted at a state university an hour from her home, she had business cards made, purchased a new book bag, and bought professional-looking clothes. She ordered graduation invitations and talked constantly about her plans and her future. Two weeks before the end of her senior year, Theresa was informed that she had failed the reading competency exam for a final time. She was absent from the graduation ceremony.

Although she did not receive a high school diploma, Theresa attended the Summerbridge program, organized to provide support to students considered "at risk," at the state university that had accepted her. After a month, she dropped out to return home to care for her mother. During that summer, she also discovered that she was pregnant with her first child. To many of her teachers, Theresa had seemed an unlikely mother. Although both vocal and adamant in her views against abortion, a belief common among her peers, Theresa frowned upon and censored others during discussions of pregnancy. She frequently made public statements that she might never have a child because it would interfere with her chosen careers. On the other hand, her low academic performance in high school combined with her poverty left her susceptible to becoming a young mother.

Theresa adjusted her life to this new reality. She moved a crib into her bedroom and took on the role of a proud and attentive mother. The baby's father drifted in and out of their lives for a short time and then disappeared. After nearly two years spent living with her mother, looking for jobs, working part-time, and caring for her child, together with her best friend Jo, Theresa began to take courses in criminal justice at the local community college. At the time of our most recent interview, she had remained at the community college for three consecutive semesters and spoke optimistically about continuing her education and possibly transferring to a four-year state university.

Theresa composed two lists of goals while in high school that capture the inconsistency and contradiction I found in many of the students' narratives. In llth-grade, Theresa wrote the following New Year's resolutions. The resolutions reflect her constant struggle to avoid pregnancy.

January 4, 1992

New Year's resolutions

The five thinks I would like to accomplish

in 1993 is:                                                :To finish school

:Stay with my boyfriend                           :Get into a great college

                                                                :live out "93" to see 94

                                                                :With out a child

By including the goal that she would remain "without a child," Theresa indicated that she agreed with the dominant narratives of pregnancy and childbearing held by the media, her school, and community. At this time in her life she seemed to believe that children would be a threat to the attainment of her goals.

The following year, when she was closer to graduation, Theresa filled out a more elaborated goal sheet that exemplified the ambiguities and contradictions I found in many narratives of the future. For this worksheet, Theresa's teacher initially asked her to write her fantasies about the future, her long-term goals and, finally, her short-term goals. On her sheet, she listed a house and car as her first fantasy goal. Next, she mentioned children and, finally, a good job. It is notable that in her list of long-term goals, which her teacher emphasized was different from a fantasy, Theresa reversed her priorities and began the list with her professional education. She then suggested a house and a car and, finally, a family that included a husband, though not necessarily children. These "real" goals were practically identical to those on her fantasy list, which suggests the difficulty she may have had in distinguishing between the two categories. She completed the worksheets as follows:

Goal setting worksheet from advisory, 12/1/93

Name: [Theresa]

Gender: female

Ethnicity: African American

Fantasies: Well at the age 30 my fantasies is to have a five Bedroom house with my fantasic car (Legend) and two children. And a good working job as a doctor.

Major Goals: 1. My goals are to get may BA and mast in the medical fields; 2. And return to college to get my degree in law; 3. And have a home and my fantasies car married to a lawyer; 4. or a successful man. Maybe not have a family because my career will be to much to have children.

Short term goals:

Next year: 1. Be Dr. [Theresa Jones]; 2. Going back to college to take up law.

3 years: 1. Still Be a Doctor Just getting tired of it and take in the Criminal Justice to Be a lawyer for to young teen age criminals

Immediate goal: One thing I can do is to work harder and get throw school and college. And don't give up.

As a youth struggling with poverty, Theresa's fantasy was a middle-class reality. It is interesting that although children were a definite part of the fantasy plans, they became only a possibility in her more realistic goal list. In her delineation of short-term goals, she wrote that she wanted to become a doctor during the next year, which points to her lack of understanding of the educational path required to reach that goal. Soon after she became a doctor, Theresa's plan was to take up law, all within the next year. Her goal for the next three years entailed switching back and forth between law and medicine. These, of course, are wildly unrealistic expectations, especially from a student who was unwilling to read a book in her English class and unable to pass a high school reading competency test. Her timeline emphasizes the impractical nature of these goals. For her immediate goal—to get through school and keep trying—Theresa was more pragmatic; her goal was grounded in a more honest assessment of her circumstances echoing the refrain of her classmates: "Don't give up." Despite these good intentions, there was a gap between words and actions for Theresa and her peers. They knew to say the words; they didn't always know how to perform the actions necessary to live by them.

In a college essay, Theresa wove together her desire to become a doctor and a lawyer with an autobiographical account of her experience of feeling like a mother to her niece at a young age. Theresa's inclusion of this event highlights its importance to her as a defining moment in her schooling and her future. In this essay for college admission, she wrote:

When I was much younger my mother and grandmother always put me down telling me that I was going to be like the rest of my brothers and sisters how I'll have children and won't finish school due to the crowd I hung around. Now I'm eighteen years of age and I have no children and my grades have improved. Preparation for a career is important to myself; but there's more to life, I want to acquire the tools I need to decide what I desire from life. Choosing my career is a crucial decision in my life.

I'm a determined focused individual. I set goals for myself in anything that I do, I pursue and try wholeheartedly in [accomplishing] them. I have dreams about becoming a well responsible college student. Dreams about getting my degree in the medical field and also get a degree in law and graduating from a four-year institute and dreamed about becoming my best self.

I'm most crecent [recent] goal is to become a doctor and getting my bachelors and master degree in law. When I first became a teen I can remember my sister haven her first child and that was that day I became a mother to that same child as well. I had to do this and that for that baby and not by choice. I had to much responable for my age, thirteen to seventeen years old. . . . Taken care of my sister three children by the time I reached seventeen she was on her fourth child.

Theresa continued this essay with the description of the hardships she faced as she helped her sister care for her babies. She connected this experience to her future participation in college,

I bearly had a social life of my own any more due to the responsibilities I have. But I have less to complain about because the resonsibibites I had to face were preparing me for the real life that I have to face at college and even maybe a family of my own. No, I may not be one of the high income familys; but if there is something I went badly enough I don 't mind getting out there working hard for it, because it's like my grandmother said "it's not your until you get out there and work for it". My mother always called me selfish; but I look at myself as being aggressive tending to attack and be hostile of my goals.

Theresa concluded her essay,

There is more to the world than material objects. I want to go beyond that which does not require my thoughts I hope college will train me to make more than career choices I hope it will train me to evaluate choices about how to live my life as a strong minded African American woman.

Theresa summed up her essay by emphasizing her identity as an African American female, restating her independence and her desire to obtain an education to be successful. She knew that her plan, no matter how ambitious it was, would be intimately connected with children in one way or another. In this essay, Theresa asserted her right to be successful despite pressures from her family and society.

Theresa's life events embody the paradox in her narrative. Theresa and her classmates held on to competing visions of their futures; they claimed to want to postpone or avoid having children in order to insure their success, yet when they became pregnant, their children sometimes gave them the motivation to continue with their education. They constructed reasons for having children in their youth, yet they understood and often agreed with the arguments in the media and by their sisters, that parenting at an early age was difficult. Today, as a mother who has returned to a community college, Theresa continues to imagine a future for herself. It could be claimed that Theresa's baby was born out of hopelessness, after she was denied her dream of "walking the stage" with her high school peers because she could not pass the high school competency exam. Yet it must be remembered that she has persisted with her education and in her pursuit of a career, a sign of resilience and proof that she has not given up. Her path is neither linear nor simply explained. As a statistic, Theresa would show up as a high school dropout, an unwed teenage mother, a Black youth living in poverty, and a student who struggled in school. Yet each of these labels would fail to capture her whole story, one that is still unfolding. They also fail to describe the incredible obstacles she faces every day, the alternative routes she has constructed and the sacrifices she must make to even aim for a middle-class lifestyle.


Current discussions and images in the media often link teenage pregnancy to African American females in the same breath that they link violence and guns to Black males. The African American pregnant teenager, found on covers of Newsweek and Time magazines, has become an icon of the failure of the welfare system and society. Schools, communities, and students themselves often give up when a high school student has a baby. At the same time that young mothers were being pathologized and portrayed as failures in the press, there were young women in this high school who turned the experience of having a child during their high school years into a reason to stay in school.

In the mid-1970s, teen pregnancy suddenly appeared in the news as an epidemic.v In the wake of Johnson's War on Poverty, public anxiety over the promise and peril of a relatively new welfare system became focused on teens, particularly poor Black adolescents. It is notable that, as the public concern about teen pregnancy was mounting, the actual number of births to teenagers declined.vi As Luker (1996, p. 83) points out, "The teenage mother—in particular, the Black teenage mother—came to personify the social, economic, and sexual trends that in one way or another affected almost everyone in America." (See also Rhode & Lawson, 1993; Scott-Jones, 1993.)

In the current climate of welfare reform, teen pregnancy has once again been described as an epidemic with a new twist (cf., Vinovskis, 1988). When a study conducted by the Alan Guttmacher Institute (1994) revealed that many of the men fathering the children with teen mothers were older men often over 20 years of age, headlines reframed the women as victims and the men as criminals. A new public outcry ensued. Once again, the voices of the young women themselves were notably absent. Ushering in the new legislation to "reform" welfare, in his 1995 State of the Union address President Clinton called the "epidemic" of teen pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births "our most serious social problem" (Boston Globe, 1995). At the same time Newt Gingrich ignited controversy when he offered a plan as part of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 to allow states to abolish aid to children of mothers younger than 21 and use that money to build orphanages. He received both support and criticism for his example of Boys Town orphanage in Nebraska as a model way to care for children born to unmarried teen mothers. Finally, in an effort to revive his political campaign in 1996, Governor Pete Wilson called for Californians to take on the challenge of "recasting and reinvigorating our culture" by reinstating the moral standards needed to curb teen pregnancy. He declared, "All of the problems tearing apart the fabric of our society have deep roots in this exploding epidemic of out-of-wedlock births" (Lesher, 1996, p. Al). Statements such as this blame poor young mothers for the effects of poverty. The language of "epidemics" pathologizes individuals who become pregnant and the communities who support them.

The young parents with whom I spoke—those who were still in their senior year of high school—often remained hopeful. Most held tightly to their plans for their future, although some admitted that children might complicate matters. Lianne's case provides an alternative image to these harsh portraits of young mothers. Her story suggests that rather than failure, a consequence of having children at a young age can lead to new forms of participation in school. Lianne lived with her mother and older sister in a small apartment that was part of a low-rise housing complex. Her house was dark and uncluttered. Large plants straining for light blocked the small windows. The living room was long and narrow with a changing set of furniture purchased by Lianne's sister and mother during their weekly trips to local flea markets. Before her child was born, Lianne was barely engaged in school, passing each year with a minimum number of credits. She described her early years in harrowing terms. Addicted to drugs at an early age, selling drugs to earn enough money for food and clothing, moving from place to place and sometimes ending up without a home due to her mother's own addictions, Lianne had reached a point of stability when I met her.

Lianne retained an optimistic, yet realistic, plan for her future. She was living at home with her baby and working toward finishing school. Her son seemed cheerful most of the time, was interested in books, and was beginning to talk. The father of her child sometimes took him for afternoons or evenings, although his oft-promised money for child support never materialized. He was older than her, out of work and on disability leave, and had abandoned their relationship before their son was born. Lianne was close to her two brothers, and they kept up a correspondence with her while they were in jail, warning her away from their own mistakes.

Lianne matched the portrait most commonly painted of the prototypical teen who becomes pregnant. She drifted through school always on the verge of failure, spent more time selling drugs than studying, all the while living in extreme poverty. However, after the birth of her son during 11th grade, Lianne became engaged in school and, when she was not too tired from sleepless nights caring for her young son, she was a vocal and articulate participant in class discussions. She narrated this story,

Before [my son] was born . . . I really didn't think about working or going to school. I used to cut school all of the time and . . . I didn't care about nothing. But after I got pregnant . . . I started thinking about what I wanted to do and you know and what I had to do, in order to raise my son and get my act together and start going to school and all that. After I had him, it just seemed like everything changed. . . . That made me do a lot of thinking about what I wanted to do. (Interview, November 17, 1994)

Lianne's story was typical of that of her peers who remained in school once they had a child. Rather than giving up as a consequence of her pregnancy, Lianne began to imagine a future for herself as a nurse. Unable to count on her son's father, she realized that she had the responsibility not only to care for her son in the present, but also to graduate from high school and attend college to prepare for a career that would enable her to support her child in the future. Through her own determination and with support from a number of teachers and from her mother, sisters, and an extended family network, she managed to accumulate enough credits to graduate from high school. As they recognized her serious approach to school, her teachers paid extra attention to her and began to give her extra work to help her earn enough points in order to pass her courses. During her 1st year out of high school, she drifted between two community colleges and a few minimum-wage jobs, such as working at McDonald's and cleaning houses. The following year Lianne completed a short-term credential program in nursing at an adult school. She was able to find a part-time job as a nurse's assistant at a doctor's office near her home. She made plans to continue with her education while she struggled to keep her job and earn enough money to make ends meet.

Lianne's life is by no means simple. Her compromised choice of a nursing assistant program rather than community college reflects, in part, the added responsibility of a child and her impatience with the time commitment the community college route entailed and the expense of remaining outside of the workforce for that period of time. Staying in her mother's apartment with her son and her grown sister, Lianne is both burdened by the added responsibility of a child and motivated by his presence in her life to complete her education and to work. Lianne's story suggests that having a child as a teenager doesn't always lead to disengagement from school and failure, but in fact motherhood can be a source of motivation. Lianne credits her willingness to stay in school and her subsequent search for a career to her son.

Both the dominant view that pregnancy necessarily leads to poverty and failure and the alternative perspectives suggested by the youth in my study are true and both are incomplete. Youth who have babies are at serious educational and economic risk. Yet they are not without hope or promise (Newman, 1999). Luker (1996) frames the argument this way: Teenage pregnancy doesn't necessarily lead to poverty, although poverty and hopelessness about the future and job prospects often lead to teen pregnancy. The image of hopeless or impoverished teens having babies does not completely capture the lives of the young parents with whom I spoke. Most held tightly to their plans for their future, tending to view children as complications or distractions rather than roadblocks. In fact, the teen parents still in school often had more fully developed plans for their futures than their peers. They had to take life more seriously because they had a child to care for and their future was more clearly drawn. Their difficulty in achieving these goals is attributable to their newborn child and also, in part, to the fact that teachers, counselors, and even, at times, parents often gave up on them and failed to take their plans seriously once they had children. When the world assumed their failure, it was difficult for them to keep reimagining their own success.


In the mid-1980s, Leon Dash (1989) wrote a series of articles for the Washington Post that he later turned in to a book that many students in this school knew about. Titled, When Children Want Children: An Inside Look at the Crisis of Teenage Parenthood, this book revealed that the urban teenagers Dash spoke with did not become pregnant out of ignorance, instead they made' conscious choices to have babies. The book opens with a conversation between Dash and a teenager who informed him, "Mr. Dash, will you please stop asking me about birth control? Girls out here know all about birth control. . . . Girls out here get pregnant because they want to have babies!" She continued, giving Dash the explanation that has become a part of the common lore about teen pregnancy, "When girls get pregnant, it's either because they want something to hold on to that they can call their own or because of the circumstances at home. Because their mother doesn't pamper them. . . . Some of them do it because they resent their parents" (pp. 11-12).

Although they were familiar with this explanation, the older students who were still in high school during their senior year talked to me about children and pregnancy in different terms. They had developed a different set of explanations that had to do with the timing of their careers and the ways they thought about their future. Students saw a child as both a major obstacle to overcome and as a milestone. Some imagined that they could have a child, move past that phase of life and into the next phase that they hoped would include a steady job or a career. Underlying many of the young women's conversations about their future plans was the fear of being derailed by a child. At the same time, the young women I spoke with often wanted to avoid becoming an "old" mother or in a situation in which their children would interfere with their careers. Although pregnancy and child-bearing are highly valued in our society, it is the "mis-timing" or "premature" aspect of the event in adolescents' lives that makes it problematic (Scott-Jones, 1993). Today, the accepted wisdom in this country is that early pregnancy leads to hardship and that teens who are considered "children" should be discouraged from having children of their own.

The youth I spoke with defied traditional categorization and cultural stereotypes. They were at once defining themselves against the media representations and their sisters' fates, even as some followed the same patterns. Many had older sisters who were out of work and living impoverished lives with children born during their teen years. These young women who still in high school or just graduated were determined to make different choices than their sisters, and they constructed life trajectories that varied from those around them. Simple explanations of the impact of pregnancy on the lives of youth erase the complex ways youth negotiate and narrate their life decisions. Stereotyped assumptions take away the chance to imagine new possibilities and alternative life paths for poor adolescents that include success rather than failure. Generalizations keep us assuming that youth living in poverty will remain poor, especially once they have a child. The case of Jo provides an alternative set of possibilities.

Jo tended to be goal directed and upbeat. As an African American senior in high school, she divided her life in to neat and compact compartments: a best friend at school from whom she was inseparable and a long-term boyfriend at home; a job where she earned money to buy clothes; and school where she quickly completed her work so it did not interfere with her plans at home. When I asked about her career goals at the beginning of the year, Jo replied that she was going to be either a lawyer or a cosmetologist. She smiled as she explained that everyone always told her she should be a lawyer because she argued so well. On days she stayed home from school, Jo said that she watched and enjoyed Court Television. Later in the year she modified these plans, explaining that initially she would become a cosmetologist and later a lawyer. She elaborated that her decision-to become a hairdresser was her backup plan, something she could fall back on if her career as a lawyer did not materialize.

Jo's eye was on the future. Days before she graduated from high school, she had enrolled in a beauty college, a 10-month program to become a licensed cosmetologist. Although her mother, herself a college graduate, encouraged Jo to attend a four-year college and live in a dormitory, Jo's choice to study cosmetology had a certain appeal because it provided her with a clear path to a job. From the start, Jo was determined to obtain a chair in the salon where she had always gone to get her own hair styled. Her main interest in this field was that she imagined it would provide her with a stable and guaranteed income. It was a familiar path. She had a brother who was a barber and aunts who were hairstylists. As a child, she was always experimenting with her dolls, styling her friends' and even her own hair. And, while she entertained dreams of buying and managing her own shop so that she would not have to work for someone else, using her job as a cosmetologist to pay her way through college, or as a backup plan in case she did not like to practice law, she listed these options in an excited voice at the same time she talked about having a child at 19, the year following her graduation. Her mind was focused on the immediate, not distant, future. Jo graduated from Beauty College in a year, found a job in the shop where she wanted to work, helped her friend Theresa with her baby, and began courses at the community college. Before she had completed a semester of course work, Jo found herself pregnant. The baby's father was thrilled, and Jo acknowledged that this might be the best time to have a child. She immediately enlisted her mother to do the child care, with cousins and a nearby daycare center staffed by relatives as the backup. She made plans to see her regular customers in her mother's apartment and to continue with her studies. The involvement of Jo's mother in her decisions and ability to stay in school and on track cannot be underestimated. To date, Jo has continued studying, styling hair, and caring for her baby. Although her life is far from simple, she is inching along the path she developed in high school.

The following scene from Jo's government class during her senior year captures a discussion among youth regarding the timing of having a child. Although this Social Studies teacher covered traditional topics in her class, she frequently supplemented the curriculum with discussions about relevant events in the students' lives, nearly always tying these discussions into specific policy or government issues. On this particular day, the students read an editorial from Newsweek magazine that argued that the rate of teen pregnancy would be reduced if welfare payments were cut off when teens became pregnant or had children—an argument that foreshadowed the debate around welfare reform that followed 2 years later. After reading the editorial aloud, students—both those with and without children of their own—clamored to contribute to the conversation, speaking loudly with passion and conviction. Sofia, an African American youth who planned to postpone both her college education and children for a few years, stopped the lively conversation with her question.

Sofia: Why do people have kids anyway when they do not have a career? That's what I want to know.

Her teacher, Andrea, responded with a description of Leon Dash's (1989) study of young mothers. She repeated Dash's argument that some youth don't believe that they can or will have a career. A baby makes them feel as though they have something of their own. Theresa, who frequently spoke adamantly against teen pregnancy while in high school, was quick to respond.

Theresa: You're talking about us teenagers having babies and leaving their careers, weren't you saying that Sofia? Maybe they want to have kids now [as teenagers] so they can get along with their career. And maybe when they get their careers' jumping, being the best they can be, they ain't going to have time to have kids.

At this point many students responded at the same time. Theresa kept on talking.

Theresa: Wait a minute. My sister tried to have a child. Okay? And she is 30 years old and she cannot have no kids now, because she didn't have no kids when she was a teenager. But now she can't have no kids. And she tried her hardest. She's 30 years old and her success took over her life. You know, so she can't have kids.

Sofia: I think it's better to still wait because if you have a college education, you can get a job easier anyway and then you can still hold on to having kids. But if you got a college education even to go back and get a job, you can go on maternity leave. (Audio tape, field notes, Government class, October 7, 1993)

At the conclusion of the discussion, their teacher asked them to write down their opinions about whether or not it was right to cut off welfare for teens. In their writing and conversations, the students repeated the arguments from the media, their friends, and relatives, and added their own experience and understanding to the dialogue. They suggested that young women might have reasons for wanting to have children early, or at least earlier than their middle-class peers. But as a group, they condemned the young girls they knew or those they had seen on TV who had children at 14 and 15. They were unanimous in their desire to stay off of welfare. As one young mother put it, "Males don't get girls pregnant. She has something to do with it." Most refused to accept the assumption that they were victims. As a group, they had complex analyses of the impact that pregnancy and childbearing had on their own lives, which I argue contributes new perspectives to public discussions about teen pregnancy. Often their alternative plans were silenced both implicitly and explicitly by teachers, peers, family, and community members.

Several youth who were either pregnant or parenting explained to me that although they may not have planned to have children at this young age, they wanted to have children before they were too old, which, according to them, was twenty-five years old. They described their desire to have the same close relationships with their children that they had experienced with their own parents because they were close in age. For the most part, the youth did not describe having children because they needed someone to love. Most claimed to never want to be on welfare and rejected the notion that teens would have babies for that reason. In addition, the students with babies were not always the weakest students or those with single mothers and homes rife with drug and alcohol abuse. These conditions seemed to be present in the lives of youth with and without children. Babies are not always born to teenagers out of hopelessness, nor do they always lead to disastrous consequences.vii They do shape both the visions and actual plans these young women construct for their futures.

A number of the students I spoke with were fighting to remain childless until they had graduated from high school or reached their goals. An African American student, Tanya, lived in a variety of settings during her adolescence: with her two parents, in foster homes, on the street, and with her sister. When Tanya began her senior year, most of her teachers doubted she would graduate from high school. She had not only failed too many courses during her previous year, she also had a surly and resistant attitude. She constantly challenged her teachers and often leapt into fights with her classmates. During the 1st semester of her senior year, something changed as Tanya realized she might graduate. She began to work hard to pass her classes and achieve good grades. Her academic record improved steadily and by the second semester she had made the honor roll.

Tanya was encouraged by her teachers, counselors, and by the foster parents in her group home to apply to college. In the spring of her senior year, after she was accepted into a state university, she began to doubt herself again. As a result, she began to miss school, get into fights, and put herself at risk for failing. However, her teachers refused to let her fail. When she missed too many days of school, they found her at her older sister's house and gave her another chance. She was both ecstatic and incredulous on the day she graduated. To date, Tanya has remained at a state university as a sociology major. Her goal is to become a social worker so that she can work with troubled youth whose lives are similar to her own. Although Tanya had a tough, nearly impenetrable shell around her, she let a few people help her. Her mentor, a health professional she met during a job-shadowing program set up by the school, was a constant support to her. Abandoned early on by her parents, Tanya has learned to take care of herself and, at the same time, struggle with others.

In response to the class discussion about cutting off welfare to teen mothers, she wrote the following entry in her journal.


I think teenagers should be cut off [of welfare] because I feel that it is corrupting our society our Black society rather. Its a copy out for young women, they don't try anymore they rely on welfare and it's really sad.

The most interesting thing I learned today was that the teen welfare rate is global. It must be inorder to make Cover story of Newsweek. This is nothing new to me, I see it every day its so common. It doesn't effect me because I'm trying to avoid welfare. I want to be able to say I never applied for welfare and never had it. I want to work for my money and for my children

I could have been a teen mother twice but I know thats not the life I want for me or my children.

In this essay, Tanya echoed the comments of her classmates that she wanted to avoid welfare and pregnancy. She understood the issue in the larger context of her Black community and also in the context of her own personal battle to get an education. Tanya and her peers perceived having a child as a threat to the fragile path toward success that they had constructed. In their writing and speech they described how they were constantly fighting off this impending danger.

Children were nearly always a subtext of female students' talk and writing about the future. They were a part of a gendered subtext tied to a very particular moment in these young women's lives. In conversations, essays, and college applications, children figured into their self-conceptions and plans for the future. These youth were on the verge of graduating from high school—or so they hoped—and their futures lay in front of them. The potential presence or absence of children in their lives at this moment was particularly significant. Female students from a range of ethnic and racial backgrounds narrated their visions of success as contingent on whether or not they had children. Students with children told stories of success both despite, and in many cases because of, the responsibilities they felt as parents. Public conversations about teen pregnancy and motherhood are often reduced to discussions about poor Black teens defined against their "successful" or "good" White or Black counterparts without children. The narratives of these young women can be read as located in the particularities of their identities and the social, historical, and political contexts of their daily lives. Rather than feeling hopeless when they became pregnant or inferior because they were low-income, as illustrated in the opening note from Aster to Jo, these young women drew pride from their identities as Black women and believed it to be integral to their future success.viii


Annette Lawson (1993) writes about the "gender scripts" or narratives that young mothers follow. She argues that young women are read (or written) as deviant when they have children at a young age and out-of-wedlock because they are constructing a life narrative with a new and threatening chronology. I am left with questions about how I write or tell the gender scripts of the young women who have narrated their stories to me. As someone with a relatively traditional gender script, how am I implicated in my writing of their stories? As a married, White, middle-class woman who waited until I was established in my career to have children, my biography differs sharply from theirs. In schools, alongside the script of the unmarried and childless professional women, my story or gendered script occupies the center stage and is often held up as the unmarked case, as normal. Our task, it seems, is to find ways to de-center this script in our schools and classrooms in order to allow and encourage students to talk and write about their fears and hopes for the future so that their scripts and realities occupy the center stage. Then, we can begin to have honest conversations about the choices, consequences, and opportunities tied to the decisions and events in students' lives. We can only engage students in honest dialogue that respects their perspectives and avoids the trap of always seeing their stories in relation to more "acceptable" ones by de-centering the traditional scripts. Stated in another way, in our classrooms we can help students construct "better" stories, a term Luttrell (1997) has borrowed from Rosenwald (1992). Luttrell (1997) posits that "better" stories make power relations explicit and suggest alternative solutions.9 Schools can give young women opportunities to tell their stories without encountering immediate censorship or silencing and to revise them with guidance and mentoring from adults and peers, so that their stories are more realistic, even transformative and are set in the context of power relations and economic realities.

I'm not advocating teen pregnancy. Without a doubt, having a child at a young age, with few economic resources, places a tremendous burden and responsibility on young women's lives. On the other hand, we need to find productive and authentic ways to address issues of motherhood and pregnancy and its relation to schooling and the future with the youth we teach. We need to examine the ways schools and curricula keep young women from imagining futures that take into account their very real circumstances. In addition, we should look at the policies that reify these curricula and reinscribe the status quo. Bell hooks (1990) asserts that policy-making debates usually "highlight notions of difference, marginality and otherness in such a way that it further marginalizes actual people of difference and otherness" (p. 125). If we pay attention to the narratives of the youth I interviewed, we have the opportunity to shift these debates.

In the raced, classed, and gendered narratives that were told by the young women in this study, children were an ever-present reality, a fact of life. Most started their high school careers working hard to avoid pregnancy. Some had children before they graduated or soon after graduation. Rather than giving up on this category of teen mothers, educators must find ways to support them when and if their circumstances change. It is clear that we need more effective programs to encourage young poor women to postpone pregnancy, and that we need to work to increase their opportunities for employment and success. At the same time, if as educators and policy makers we recognize that early childbearing and motherhood can become a motivating factor in young women's lives rather than a source of despair, we can explicitly address the students from this understanding and help them to plan their lives accordingly.

Current policies aimed at preventing or reducing teen pregnancy are generally clustered around abstinence programs and family planning services, coupled with dire warnings issued through the media, billboards, and teen education classes. The data in this study suggest some additional avenues to explore to reduce unintended pregnancies for youth. Educators and policy makers would be wise to listen to and take into account these dialogues in their work with students, preservice and experienced teachers. Rather than relegating conversations about the role of children and the consequences of unintended pregnancies to the ends of periods and the hallways, I suggest that teachers make them more central, incorporating difficult and controversial issues in to their curriculum. Explicit instruction in how to do this should begin in teacher education programs. In these conversations with youth, it is critical to pursue, rather than avoid, the complexities. Students need more than information and warnings; they need to participate in the construction of alternate visions.

Yet conversations are not enough. We need to examine schools—their pedagogy and curriculum—to see whether they engage students in learning the literacies and skills that allow them to enact new roles and identities in relation to work and their futures. And, as Natriello, McDill, and Pallas (1990) argue, we must find ways to address these issues with long-term rather than stop gap solutions. We need to ask why students such as Theresa simultaneously gain admission to four-year colleges and fail high school competency exams at the last minute, leading them to leave high school with vague and unrealistic plans about their futures. In Theresa's case, although there were many teachers who reached out to her, it was not enough. What role might mentoring programs—both in and out of schools— serve for young women such as Theresa? Would the opportunity to talk honestly about options and consequences, and to see how these decisions played out in the lives of others, have helped her to think about her choices differently? We must examine how schools, particularly urban schools, are disrupting the limiting and limited categories and possibilities they offer to female students. And we must take a close and honest look at what is possible in schools and when there is a need to look outside of these institutions.

When students talk about their futures in schools, as educators and policy makers we tend to carve away the complexities. When Jo publicly announced that she wanted to become both a lawyer and a hairdresser, her teacher treated her as a future cosmetologist declaring: "Well, you don't have to read Shakespeare to do hair." Given the current economic climate that has resulted from the dismantling of social service safety nets and increased barriers to postsecondary education, the hurdles faced by these youth have only worsened since their high school years in the early 1990s. Implicit in the note quoted in the opening paragraph of this article is the notion that becoming pregnant would "bring [Jo] down" and keep her from becoming a "big Black successful Black women." The discourses of youth, as well as the narratives of their experiences, raise questions about the automatic link between success and remaining without a child. They encourage us to see the ways that Jo and her peers are struggling to be successful as young mothers. Acknowledging the complex nature of this discourse allows us to imagine new educational practices and policies that will both support youth like Jo to remain childless and support them to continue with their education should they become pregnant. Our task is to adapt our policies and practices, the discourses we use in our teaching and policy making, in order to give students opportunities to translate their experiences, tell their stories, and narrate their lives in order to transform their futures.

I extend my gratitude to the National Academy of Education and the Spencer Foundation for their generous support of this project. Thanks are also due to my thoughtful and wise friends and colleagues who added invaluable insight to this piece over the years. They include: Patti Buck, Shirley Brown, Bob Fecho, Michelle Fine, Deborah Hicks, Rebecca Maynard, David Paul, Paul Skilton-Sylvester and Rebecca Steinitz. Pseudonyms are used throughout the article.


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KATHERINE SCHULTZ is an assistant professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is co-editor with the forthcoming volume School's Out: Bridging Out-of-School Literacy with Classroom Practice, Teachers College Press.


i See Schultz, 1996. For important exceptions, see Katz (1995) and Raissiguier (1994), two studies of vocational students in France. There are few older studies that focused on White working-class females. One purpose of these early studies was to provide a response to Willis's (1977) study of working-class boys, and to describe the cultures established by females. See, for example, Deem (1980), Griffin (1985), and McRobbie (1978). Other more recent exceptions include: Borman (1991), Holland & Eisenhart (1990), Luttrell (1997), Valli (1986), and Weis (1990).

ii A larger context in which to place this study is a report released by the organization Children Now and described in the San Francisco Chronicle, June 22, 1995. The report states that in California in 1993, the 1st year of this study, teen unemployment was the highest in the nation (at 26%), the youth homicide rate was 59% higher than the U.S. average, the teen birth rate was the 7th highest in the nation, and nearly one in three children was living in poverty.

iii For a more detailed description, see Schultz (1996, 1999).

iv See for example, the Allan Guttmacher Institute (1976) report entitled "11 Million Teenagers: What Can Be Done About the Epidemic of Adolescent Pregnancies in the United States."

v While in the mid-1980s these numbers began to climb again (Klerman, 1993), a recent report in the New York Times cites evidence of the decline of teen pregnancy perhaps signaling a shift in this trend not yet reflected in a change in public perception (Lacey, 1999).

vi Again, I don't want to minimize the hardship for both the mother and her child of teen pregnancy. See Maynard (1997) for a set of economic analyses that support this point.

vii This pride and frequent assertion of their racial identity provides an interesting contrast to the important work done by Fordham on the relationships between identity and success (1988, 1991, 1993). See also Schultz (1996, 1999), Steele (1992), and Tatum (1992, 1997).

viii In my work on conversations across race lines, I have called these democratizing conversations (Schultz, Buck, & Niesz, 2000).

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 103 Number 4, 2001, p. 582-607
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10774, Date Accessed: 1/22/2022 4:03:51 AM

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  • Katherine Schultz
    University of Pennsylvania
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    KATHERINE SCHULTZ is an assistant professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania. She is co-author, with Patti Buck and Tricia Niesz, of “Democratizing conversations: Discourses of ‘race’ in a post-desegregated middle school (American Education Research Journal, forthcoming).
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