Childrearing Involves Not Just Assigning Duties but Instilling a Sense of Duty

Dec. 19 2017

In The Vanishing American Adult, the Nebraska senator Ben Sasse diagnoses a general cultural malaise besetting today’s young people, and attributes it primarily to changes in attitudes toward education and child-rearing. Sasse’s prescriptions for remedying this situation involve, above all, giving children duties. In his review, the rabbi and Jewish theologian Shalom Carmy—drawing on the writings of Søren Kierkegaard—examines just how religion fits into the book’s argument:

Sasse makes no secret of his Christian commitment. In The Vanishing American Adult, this comes out primarily in his advocacy of an Augustinian view of human nature: children do not become ethical adults without vigorous training. Sasse contrasts this view with the dominant philosophy of education traced (perhaps a bit too simplistically) to John Dewey.

This is right. But to my mind . . . young people need more than tasks, projects, and assignments. They need to see that duty has, [in Kierkegaard’s words], “eternal validity.”

Children may not understand all of this naturally. Duties are onerous, at least part of the time. Yet children can be taught, or rather brought to understand, that doing a task well and taking responsibility for it begets joy, even happiness, as some of Sasse’s illustrations show. We can teach, by precept and example, that this is the foundation for adulthood.

The relation of this moral sense to religion is complex. In Kierkegaard’s writings, [it] belongs to the ethical stage rather than the religious. But the ethical orientation is open to the religious. For Kierkegaard, the road from ethical responsibility to religion characteristically runs through guilt and repentance. There is a great deal of truth in this. But there is an affirmative side as well. Learning to take joy in God’s commandments, participating in acts of kindness, in prayer and thanksgiving, and in religious study, prepare young hearts to savor the “eternal validity” of duty’s adult demands. Those of us who know this indeed have something to be thankful for.

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More about: Ben Sasse, Children, Education, Judaism, Kierkegaard, Religion & Holidays

Nikki Haley Succeeded at the UN Because She Saw It for What It Is

Oct. 15 2018

Last week, Nikki Haley announced that she will be stepping down as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year. When President Trump appointed her to the position, she had behind her a successful tenure as governor of South Carolina, but no prior experience in foreign policy. This, writes Seth Lispky, turned out to have been her greatest asset:

What a contrast [Haley provided] to the string of ambassadors who fell on their faces in the swamp of Turtle Bay. That’s particularly true of the two envoys under President Barack Obama. [The] “experienced” hands who came before her proceeded to fail. Their key misconception was the notion that the United Nations is part of the solution to the world’s thorniest problems. Its charter was a vast treaty designed by diplomats to achieve “peace,” “security,” and “harmony.”

What hogwash.

Haley, by contrast, may have come in without experience—but that meant she also lacked for illusions. What a difference when someone knows that they’re in a viper pit—that the UN is itself the problem. And has the gumption to say so.

This became apparent the instant Haley opened her first press conference, [in which she said of the UN’s obsessive fixation on condemning the Jewish state]: “I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. . . . I am here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias.”

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More about: Nikki Haley, U.S. Foreign policy, United Nations, US-Israel relations