The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-age-Crisis--and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance was a surprisingly good, and refreshing book. It's written by politician Ben Sasse, and it's completely bipartisan. This book steps above politics and takes a look at what it means to be an adult, a citizen and a contributing member of society.
I almost didn't read this book because I didn't feel like being lectured to about how 'terrible kids are these days' and how we are failing as a country. But I'm glad I picked up this book because Sasse didn't just knock on parenting and America, he was actually constructive and posed some good arguments.
Sasse explains the problem in the first part of the book - kids don't know what an adult is anymore, or how to become one, and older generations have forgotten that we need to teach them.
The second part of the book talks about how to tackle the problem. He says that we must help the children of America transition from dependence to adulthood, and explores how to do this by diving into several themes:
Overcome Peer Culture: As generations pass, we become more age segregated. Before people commuted to a specialized job, families worked together, households were intergenerational and kids saw adult's gainful employment up close. Kids were apprentices to adults. As the world changed and work became more specialized, kids lacked exposure to different kids of work. Young people now spend the majority of their time in school and with people of their own age. The progression makes sense, but it has also led to an unawareness of adulthood among children and a loss of a sense of mortality.
Work Hard: Each generation gains more luxuries with the advancement of our world, technology, etc. This generally is a good thing, but there are consequences. Sasse says our culture now tries to protect kids from hard work and experiences, when we should be figuring out how to give them hard tasks so they can view suffering as something to be conquered, not avoided.
Resist Consumption: Meaningful work is the key to happiness, not consumption. It's harder and harder to stop consuming media and everything on a screen. It leads to passiveness and a loss of motivation to make positive change by doing meaningful things like helping a neighbor and contributing to the world through action.
Meaningful Travel - Meaningful travel means absorbing and learning about a new culture, not just following the tourist book. If people focus just on travel as a tourist and for luxury it doesn't allow them to put themselves in another's shoes and reap the true benefits travel can provide.
Becoming Truly Literate - There's a difference between reading and reading well and critically. Reading on a phone usually doesn't allow us to retain and be fully engaged - we skim. Students in this country continue to struggle with basic reading comprehension. Being truly literate means absorbing books and creating an extensive book list to wrestle with for life. Sasse gives ideas of books that could be on everyone's Canon, and I love his idea of creating a bookshelf in the home with this Canon of books to read, share, go back to and wrestle with.
Sasse did go into some of the history of education in our country, which was interesting and has made me want to read more books on this topic. You can see how the progression of education in America happened, but it's interesting to take a step back and look at the history and think about how education can be revamped in order to solve some of the problems we are running into.
Literacy is a prerequisite for freedom. Read deeply. Read what matters. Build a reading list. Don't take literacy for granted.