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

By Deirdre M. Kelly | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Therapeutic Haven Versus Real-World Microcosm: How Citizenship Challenges the Dichotomy

City School staff members found themselves steering between two guiding visions for the Teen-Age Parents Program. One guiding image of the program was that of a microcosm of the “real world, ” where the student and future worker identities took precedence and teen mothers were expected to give birth, return to school, and adjust to the status quo. The other image of the program was that of a therapeutic haven, where the mother identity took precedence and students were provided a safe space, albeit sometimes at the expense of the confidence and skills they needed to succeed in the wider world. These visions coexisted in tension with one another.

The microcosm-haven tension was not unique to City School. In fact, all secondary schools grapple with it when they simultaneously attempt to prepare youth to take on adult responsibilities and nurture their intellectual and social potential in a sheltered environment. Yet the tension was particularly evident at City School because of the bifurcated structure of its Teen-Age Parents Program: some teen mothers were fully integrated into regular classes (like all teen mothers at Town School were), while just over half at any one time spent all or most of their time in the TAPP classroom. For this reason, I will concentrate in this chapter on my observations and interviews at City School.

The haven and real-world microcosm visions are best thought of as ideal types representing opposite ends of a continuum of programmatic approaches. The haven model focuses on the “special” needs of pregnant and mothering girls and risks stigmatizing them, while the real-world microcosm model often fails to support students adequately and risks losing

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