Class, children, & the social costs of nonjudgmentalism

There is a growing chasm in our society.  It isn’t so much between the wealthy and the middle class, though it does have to do with social classes, a major demarcation seeming to be between the college educated and those who just finished high school.  But it isn’t an economic gap so much as a cultural gap, or, more specifically, a child-raising gap.  It’s between children who have been raised by both parents, who have been cared for, given lots of attention, and taken care of.  And children raised pretty much on their own, often with a single mother and serial boyfriends, with very little supervision, and with very little protection from abuse, sex, and their own impulses.  This is the thesis of Robert Putnam’s new book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.  Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, is a very important social scientist, a Harvard professor whose insights have been very influential across the spectrum.  That he is pointing to this crisis in childraising–which, in turn, leads to young adults poorly equipped for a successful life–will get attention.

Thanks to Larry Hughes for pointing me to a New York Times column by David Brooks, who reflects on Putnam’s findings, which he summarizes this way:

Roughly 10 percent of the children born to college grads grow up in single-parent households. Nearly 70 percent of children born to high school grads do. There are a bunch of charts that look like open scissors. In the 1960s or 1970s, college-educated and noncollege-educated families behaved roughly the same. But since then, behavior patterns have ever more sharply diverged. High-school-educated parents dine with their children less than college-educated parents, read to them less, talk to them less, take them to church less, encourage them less and spend less time engaging in developmental activity.

Brooks goes on to describe some of the heart-breaking profiles of children growing up that Putnam gives, from descriptions of abuse and neglect to this statement of a young man who said he would like to grow up to be a preacher:  “I just love beating up somebody and making they nose bleed and just hurting them and just beating them on the ground.”  Then Brooks considers what the problem is and what is needed to address it. [Read more...]

“Wizard of Oz” and the Indians

The Oneida tribe has been leading the charge against the Washington Redskins’ name.  But now that tribe is itself caught in a controversy over its plans to open a casino in Chittenango, N.Y.  That was the home of L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.   Plans for the casino, to be named “Yellow Brick Road,” would honor the local author.  But it turns out, Baum, as a newspaper writer in 1890, advocated the extermination of all Indians, including, presumably, the Oneida. [Read more...]

Whatever happened to the working class?

When I was in college, I worked on a construction crew, and it did me a lot of good.  I developed a lot of respect for the guys I worked with, who worked with their backs and their hands with skills that were far beyond me.  Politicians used to talk quite a bit about “the working class,” also known as “blue collar workers.”  But no more.  Even liberal democrats are pushing policies that are supposed to help “the middle class.”

Part of the problem may be that the working class considers itself middle class.  And with good reason:  A factory or construction worker may well own his own home, have a car or two, and have other accoutrements once associated with the middle, college-educated class.  Such are the wonders of the modern economy.  And yet, unemployment, the decline of American industry, stagnant wages, and other economic woes are hitting blue collar workers hard.  But hardly anybody is speaking for them or about them anymore. [Read more...]

How pastors and other leaders deal with inner chaos

There are lots of books about leadership, particularly leadership in churches.  The book that won the Award of Merit (2nd place) in the category of Christianity & Culture in the Christianity Today Book Awards, goes much deeper than most.   Mark Sayers, in Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm, shows how leaders–that is to say, pastors–are often caught up in battling their own inner chaos.

In his discussion, he also shows why so many leaders (pastors) adopt an anti-establishment, neo-bohemian mindset in insisting on changing the institution they are trying to lead.   But the book is not a critique, as such, but a very personal treatment of its author’s own experience as a pastor, one that will be of great help to other pastors and leaders, burnt-out or otherwise, trying to do their best for the people following them.

After the jump, see the mini-review I wrote about the book as one of the Christianity Today judges. [Read more...]

T.S. Eliot as inventor of the Hipster

Literary scholar Karen Swallow Prior is kind enough to credit me for mentoring her through graduate school.  I’m proud to see that she has become a “public intellectual,” writing regularly for both Christianity Today and The Atlantic.  You have got to read her essay about how the whole mindset of the hipster is captured in T. S. Eliot’s “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.” [Read more...]

The case for a North American century

Many have been saying that  America is in decline, that our political, cultural, and economic contributions are slipping. China, some say, is the up-and-coming nation.  Others say that the age of the dominant world power is over.

But an op-ed piece by former General David Petraeus and Brookings Institute researcher Michael O’Hanlon say that the United States, in partnership with Canada and Mexico, has economic and demographic advantages over all comers that may make for a “North American Century.” [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X