Heartfelt advice about how to raise engaged citizens.
Sasse, a junior Republican senator from Nebraska and former president of Midland University, a liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, makes his literary debut with an earnest critique of American youth. A father of three, he worries that the nation’s children “are not ready for the world they are soon going to inherit.” Too many are passive, insular, and coddled, lacking a strong work ethic, moral center, and sense of initiative. The author blames a variety of factors, including broken families, a culture of overconsumption, the social upheaval of the 1960s, and ubiquitous “screen time.” How, asks Sasse, can parents ensure that their children will become “fully formed, vivacious, appealing, resilient, self-reliant, problem-solving souls who see themselves as called to love and serve their neighbors?” The author does not look for answers from schools, which he criticizes for failing to inculcate strong moral values, resulting from the progressive educational ideas of John Dewey and the banning of school prayer. Sasse presents advice that seems most applicable to the affluent and educated: distract children from peer culture by enhancing family time (dining, singing, memorizing poetry together); emphasize the difference between want and need; engage in travel as learners rather than merely tourists. The author thoughtfully underscores the importance of reading, “a necessity for responsible adults and responsible citizens.” His recommended books include those about God; “Homesick Souls,” a category that includes The Canterbury Tales and Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica; Shakespeare; the American idea (the Declaration of Independence and other founding documents); markets (Adam Smith, for one, and Milton Friedman); books about totalitarianism, to protect against “the newfound popularity of socialism among millennials”; books that offer a “humanistic appreciation of science”; and canonical American fiction by authors such as Willa Cather, John Steinbeck, and Ralph Ellison.
Sasse makes a host of debatable assertions, but he also makes a simple, sensible call for an informed electorate.