Pregnant with Meaning: Teen Mothers and the Politics of Inclusive Schooling

By Deirdre M. Kelly | Go to book overview

Chapter 5

Integrating Teen Mothers into City and Town Schools: Coping with the Dilemma of Difference

Can we invent other practices that treat difference as just the variety of human experience, rather than the basis for dividing people into the class of the normal and the class of the abnormal?

—Martha Minow

Stigma and the discourses that help to construct it are the means by which difference is made hierarchical and assigned a value that is either positive or negative. Historically, pregnant and mothering students have been defined as different in the sense of abnormal or Other and excluded from school on this basis. This chapter focuses on the efforts of teachers and administrators at City and Town Schools to promote the inclusion of teen mothers. An analysis of their goals, beliefs, actions, and strategies reveals the profound challenge of inventing practices that move beyond the normal-abnormal dichotomy by treating difference, instead, as variation in a set. The challenge amounts to nothing less than refashioning the institution of schooling so that it does not “establish one norm that places the burden of difference on those who diverge from it” (Minow, 1990, p. 94).

Compared with this tall and utopian order, the vision of Ms. Long and Ms. Connell—leaders of the young parent initiatives at Town and City Schools, respectively—was, by necessity, limited. Circumscribing their vision were the resources at their disposal and the more immediate goal of meeting the perceived needs of students who were also mothers. “The purpose, ” Ms. Long told me at the start of her tenure, “is to keep them well integrated into a normal school life and just provide for the differences, provide for their extra needs. We don't want to set up an alternate school situation.” Ms. Connell, who had inherited the Teen-Age Parents

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