Failing Liberty 101: How We Are Leaving Young Americans Unprepared for Citizenship in a Free Society
This slender book is an elegant and heartfelt plea for educators (and other adults) to pay far more attention to the moral and civic formation of young Americans in school and beyond. Author Bill Damon (professor of education at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution) is probably the country’s wisest, most learned, and most thoughtful observer/critic/analyst of civic and character education, its absence, and the consequences of that absence for our kids and nation. You won’t find tons of new data in these pages (for numbers, look here) but you will find an astute and deeply alarming discussion of why we’re doing such a crummy job of preparing our daughters and sons for “citizenship in a free society” and of how and why we could do a whole lot better. In Damon’s words, “What the American Dream means to young people today is more than a matter of passing cultural trivia. If the Dream means little, or if it is confined to its most base connotations of quick materialistic gain, we cannot deny that our society’s prospects have grown dimmer within our lifetimes. If, on the other hand, young Americans come to appreciate some of the deeper meanings that the American Dream has held for hopeful citizens over the centuries; if they come to understand the role of liberty in fostering this hope; if they learn that liberty does not come easily or automatically to any society, but requires particular social conditions and the dedication of citizens to main; and if they are educated to develop the virtues and the character required for living responsibly in a free society, THEN the American Dream will remain intact for them and for future generations to come.”
William Damon, “Failing Liberty 101: How We Are Leaving Young American Unprepared for Citizenship in a Free Society,” (Menlo Park, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2011).
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