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The Big Answer


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The De-Valuing Of America

a book by William J. Bennett

(our site's book review)

Bennett makes the good point that we need good values in America and yet there are many who would destroy these values in their pursuit of moral relativism and political correctness. And we need good character. He considers this a key issue. We concur.

But then he throws divisive Culture War grenades, attacking the academic and Hollywood elites—especially those that criticize his heroes Reagan and Bush. Especially revealing is how he describes both ex-presidents as people who never had any existential crises or insecurities—and he considered this a great compliment and signs of moral strength. Apparently the growth pains of the heart and soul are weaknesses and great men like these two are born with great character and don’t have to go through the difficult maturity steps the rest of us do—that teach us the “no pain, no gain” verity. One gets the feeling he views these guys as heroes. Perhaps Bennett should read The Concise Untold History of the United States and learn the REAL hisory of the USA. It turns out that the picture Bennett's superficial tome paints of his heroes Reagan and Bush bear little resemblance to the actual men themselves.

Heroes like Reagan and Bush (?)
Heroes like Reagan and Bush (?)

Rather than specifically address any of the relevant and challenging criticisms aimed at the right-wing, the orthodox, and the authoritarian mind-set, Bennett prefers to write like a politician, throwing polarizing and insight-less cliches that come off like election-year sound bites. What could have been a challenging book that explored the critical issues around value and character formation, addressed from an objective position that gave credit to the important criticisms of the right-wing positions, instead turned into a one-sided polemic that not only shined no new light in the darkness but tended instead to darken places of lightness.

Bennett shined no new light in the darkness but tended instead to darken places of lightness
Bennett shined no new light in the darkness but tended instead to darken places of lightness

This is unfortunate because he had his finger on one of the most important issues of our time: character formation. But America needs neither fingers nor mouths on this issue. What it needs is brains. To read something with more insight, try Virtuous Reality: How America Surrendered Discussion of Moral Values to Opportunists, Nitwits, and Blockheads Like William Bennett, The Responsive Communitarian Platform, Social Evolution Is Spinning Its Wheels, and The Content of America's Character.

What we need is brains dedicated to finding out how to form good character (like this website)
What we need is brains dedicated to finding out how to form good character (like this website)