The Vanishing American Adult

The Vanishing American Adult

Our Coming-of-age Crisis--and How to Rebuild A Culture of Self-reliance

Book - 2017
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In an era of safe spaces, trigger warnings, and an unprecedented election, the country's youth are in crisis. Senator Ben Sasse warns the nation about the existential threat to America's future.

Raised by well-meaning but overprotective parents and coddled by well-meaning but misbegotten government programs, America's youth are ill-equipped to survive in our highly-competitive global economy.

Many of the coming-of-age rituals that have defined the American experience since the Founding: learning the value of working with your hands, leaving home to start a family, becoming economically self-reliant--are being delayed or skipped altogether. The statistics are daunting: 30% of college students drop out after the first year, and only 4 in 10 graduate. One in three 18-to-34 year-olds live with their parents.

From these disparate phenomena: Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse who as president of a Midwestern college observed the trials of this generation up close, sees an existential threat to the American way of life.

In The Vanishing American Adult , Sasse diagnoses the causes of a generation that can't grow up and offers a path for raising children to become active and engaged citizens. He identifies core formative experiences that all young people should pursue: hard work to appreciate the benefits of labor, travel to understand deprivation and want, the power of reading, the importance of nurturing your body--and explains how parents can encourage them.

Our democracy depends on responsible, contributing adults to function properly--without them America falls prey to populist demagogues. A call to arms, The Vanishing American Adult will ignite a much-needed debate about the link between the way we're raising our children and the future of our country.

Publisher: New York :, St. Martin's Press,, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781250114402
Characteristics: 306 pages


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Jul 31, 2018

“Ben Sasse is insufferable”
by Matthew Walther, posted at The Week

Jun 10, 2018

According to Ben Sasse “our entire nation is in the midst of a collective coming-of-age crisis without parallel in our history. We are living in an America of perpetual adolescence. Our kids simply don’t know what an adult is anymore—or how to become one. Many don’t see a reason even to try.” It’s hard to disagree with Sasse’s sentiments. We could all think of examples where parental failure encouraged perpetual adolescence, Many of his calls for common sense are eminently sensible. But, as the senator from Nebraska says himself, this is not a policy book, but a social criticism based on 19th century values. And, it struck me that he did indeed offer ideas that you could accept as beneficial in general but suspect in the details of their enactment. As the New York Times said in a review, “It must be nice to be Ben Sasse, in a position to pick and choose the hardships one will adopt in order to learn some life lessons—and to feel morally superior for having triumphed over phony adversity.” His viewpoint is hopelessly parochial; few of us live in a 19th-century farm situation. I’m tempted to echo the line “very interesting, but stupid” from the 60s show Laugh In. Sasse has no problem putting 18-year-olds to work as manual laborers, but doesn’t mention serving in our military service or the Peace Corps as ways to learn the values of sustained effort for a cause. Why not reinstate the draft, requiring all 18-year-olds to serve for a year in either one as a rite of passage. If he sponsored a such bill in the Senate, he’d get about as many takers as Michael Moore did when he tried to get members of congress to sign up their sons for military service in Farenheit 9/11. The Nebraska Senator has identified the problem, but not the root cause, so his prescription probably won’t draw much support.

ArapahoeSarah Apr 05, 2018

An interesting book that is divided in two parts: "Our Passivity Problem" & "An Active Program." The first part is compelling in how it describes the recent phenomenon of the delay of adulthood and the possible reasons for it. The second part provides some intriguing ideas on how to raise children, so that they do not flounder as adults.

Jan 27, 2018

I wanted to give Sasse a chance. That lasted about 20 pages. This book is just the same right wing talk radio bilge from a guy who can't pronounce his last name correctly.

ArapahoeAndrew Dec 11, 2017

I want nothing more than to sit down with Ben Sasse in a room and debate the heck out of this book and his ideas. And that's exactly what he wants.

Aug 21, 2017

On holiday out-of-province. Pick-up at later date, after Sept. 1

May 17, 2017

THEY lay off American and Mexican farm workers in central Washington and California, and farm workers in Hawaii, then fly in cheaper Thai farm workers [2007], then claim they cannot find enough American or Mexican workers!
THEY replace American IT workers with foreign IT workers, then claim they cannot find enough skilled American workers!
After the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley some years back, a survey was conducted of Fortune 500 CEOs, and it was found that over 83 percent were unable to read a simple financial statement.
Appears the problem doesn't reside with the young American student or worker, but a severe shortage of competent CEOs is the major problem.
Another clown writes another clownish book - - ignores that 7 million jobs have been offshored with the resultant 1 to 3 jobs which depended on those offshored jobs subsequently disappearing [for a total of 15 to 20 million jobs gone], and the problem is one of self-reliance, so sayeth this clown author!?!? From 1979 to 2012, 84 percent of economic wealth went to the top 1 percent! Can't this clownish author do simple arithmentic?
Ho, hum, . . . .bet I know how this dude voted on all those free-trade agreements which offshored the jobs, and bet I can even guess how much he made in payoffs for voting for them!
[I note in your author bio you avoided any military service. What exactly did you learn at Oxford, Ben? ? ?]

May 17, 2017

Looking forward to reading this book. I heard NPR's interview with the author and it was compelling.

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