Sasse searches for "The Vanishing American Adult"

"The Vanishing American Adult" by Ben Sasse

Senator Ben Sasse says we’ve failed our kids. In a book out Tuesday, he outlines what he calls our “coming-of-age crisis.”

“The Vanishing American Adult” is not a book of policy proposals, or reflections on politics.

Instead, it’s a parenting book from a historian, who argues the nation’s youth have become stuck in “perpetual adolescence.”

Nebraska is mentioned frequently, and plays a large role in the senator’s narrative about work ethic.

Sections bear titles like “Lessons from the Ranch” and “The Detasseling Alarm Hurts at 4:30 a.m.”

The former refers to his tweets from the spring of 2016, as he shared his daughter’s adventures on a Holt County Ranch, tagging cattle and learning to drive a stick shift.

“Nebrakans tend to be more interested in my 15-year-old living on a cattle ranch, than in policy fights,” he told NTV at the time.

Whether his kids are volunteering or working on the ranch, they’re the kind of experiences he argues today’s young people aren’t getting…

“Kids seem to be distracted and drifting” he writes.

Sasse says he wants to create a national discussion, about the sense something’s wrong with our kids.

There are discussions of too much screen time, and 20-somethings in their parents’ basement playing Call of Duty. But he wants to raise his kids to be self-sufficient.

"I have no interest in my children being formed by the zeitgeist,” he writes. “Instead, I want my children to be formed by ideals and principles that are definable and debatable."

There are reflections on parents who over-manage the lives of young adults, so they never have to make thoughtful decisions. And anecdotes about Midland University, which he ran prior to being elected in 2014. He writes about athletes who left a Christmas tree partially decorated because they didn’t take initiative to find a ladder, and a promising employee who would disappear from campus for her Pilates class, when there was work to be done.

However, only the first few chapters outline what he sees as the problem.

His focus is on principles, like consuming less and doing more, learning work ethic through pain and making sure young people spend time in intergenerational settings.

“Hard work, manual labor, working outdoors – on a farm, say, or a ranch – is an education in itself,” he writes.

Readers won’t find more than a passing reference to presidential politics. Instead, there are chapters on travel and reading.

In the final pages, he says Pres. Obama got it wrong, when he was asked about American exceptionalism.

Sasse writes that he’s an optimist, “and I believe that America’s best days lie ahead.”

“The Vanishing American Adult” is published by St. Martin’s Press and the publication date is May 16, 2017.

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