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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.

Read more at First Things

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

Mahmoud Abbas Comes to the UN to Walk away from the Negotiating Table

Feb. 22 2018

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, addressed the United Nations Security Council during one of its regular discussions of the “Palestine question.” He used the opportunity to elaborate on the Palestinians’ “5,000-year history” in the land of Israel, after which he moved on to demand—among other things—that the U.S. reverse its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The editors of the Weekly Standard comment:

It’s convenient for Abbas to suggest a condition to which he knows the United States won’t accede. It allows him to do what he does best—walk away from the table. Which is what he did on Tuesday, literally. After his speech, Abbas and his coterie of bureaucrats walked out of the council chamber, snubbing the next two speakers, the Israeli ambassador Danny Danon and the U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley, . . . [in order to have his] photograph taken with the Belgian foreign minister.

Abbas has neither the power nor the will to make peace. It’s the perennial problem afflicting Palestinian leadership. If he compromises on the alleged “right of return”—the chimerical idea that Palestinians can re-occupy the lands from which they [or their ancestors] fled, in effect obliterating the Israeli state—he will be deposed by political adversaries. Thus his contradictory strategy: to prolong his pageantry in international forums such as the UN, and to fashion himself a “moderate” even as he finances and incites terror. He seems to believe time is on his side. But it’s not. He’s eighty-two. While he continues his performative intransigence, he further immiserates the people he claims to represent.

In a sense, it was entirely appropriate that Abbas walked out. In that sullen act, he [exemplified] his own approach to peacemaking: when difficulties arise, vacate the premises and seek out photographers.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Mahmoud Abbas, Nikki Haley, Politics & Current Affairs, United Nations