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The Big Answer


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Virtuous Reality: How America Surrendered Discussion of Moral Values to Opportunists, Nitwits, and Blockheads Like William Bennett

a book by Jon Katz

(our site's book review)

Katz takes the unusual tact of lobbing a Culture War grenade of especially insulting tenor at conservative William Bennett in the actual subtitle of his book (“How America Surrendered Discussion of Moral Values to Opportunists, Nitwits, and Blockheads like William Bennett”). Not exactly an olive branch, and yet he ends his book on the almost conciliatory note of declaring the Culture War pointless and unwinnable. One supposes his subtitle had two goals in mind: to grab the attention of prospective buyers for marketing purposes, and to help balance out the cultural debate, which, at least in the radio talk-show circuit, is heavily weighted toward the right-wingers. He’s also obviously responding to right-wing statements about how stupid today’s kids are, as evidenced by his assurance that: “I won’t ever call them stupid for watching things I don’t like.”

Katz is trying to help balance out the cultural debate, which, at least in the radio talk-show circuit, is heavily weighted toward the right-wingers
Katz is trying to help balance out the cultural debate, which, at least in the radio talk-show circuit, is heavily weighted toward the right-wingers


Katz's comeback to those calling today's kids stupid is: 'I won’t ever call them stupid for watching things I don’t like'
Katz's comeback to those calling today's kids stupid is: 'I won’t ever call them stupid for watching things I don’t like'

William Bennett was Secretary of Education from 1985 to 1988 and the 1989-1991 U.S. "drug Czar," and he wrote The Index Of Leading Cultural Indicators and The De-Valuing Of America. Other Bennett books. He's an American conservative pundit, politician, and political theorist. A blockhead he's not, even though we cannot agree with many of his right-wing ideas.

He advocates parents acting virtuously so as to be good examples to emulate, because kids follow what they see, not what they hear. He advocates nurturing levels sufficient to prevent kids from being left to fend for themselves. And he happily reports that today’s kids : “…are allergic to men in suits telling them what to think.”

Happily, today’s kids are allergic to men in suits telling them what to think
Happily, today’s kids are allergic to men in suits telling them what to think

He does a bit of a prat-fall when he asserts that the media doesn’t shape character, consciences or values. Of course, this is false, and it doesn’t take a systems analyst to see that media and culture (including the youngest part) shape one another. This is the Achilles’ heel of his entire argument. But he does raise the valid point that we need to take responsibility for the ethical and moral value systems within our own homes. For a better treatment of the subject, try Your Children Are Under Attack.

He bemoans—as do we—the fact that: “We have surrendered public discussion of moral values to opportunistic politicians, cultural conservatives, politically correct ideologues and self-righteous journalists.” But he celebrates our diversity—and the world’s diversity.

We have surrendered public discussion of moral values to opportunistic politicians, cultural conservatives, politically correct ideologues and self-righteous journalists
We have surrendered public discussion of moral values to opportunistic politicians, cultural conservatives, politically correct ideologues and self-righteous journalists