WHO IS BEN SASSE?

A smart, rational, articulate Republican senator from Nebraska with whom I can agree on many points made in his new book, The Vanishing American Adult.

Last year the Sasses sent their 14-year-old daughter to work on a cattle ranch so that she could experience the “unrelenting encounter with daily necessity,” like learning how to drive a manual tractor and, he proudly recounts, donning shoulder-length gloves to perform rectal exams on pregnant cows.

“At our house we have come to conclude that building and strengthening character will require extreme measures and the intentional pursuit of gritty work experiences,” Sasse writes, and he presents his book as a guide for parents determined not to raise the kind of soft, entitled kids he encountered when he was president of Midland University. He says that the idea for “The Vanishing American Adult” first came to him several years ago, when a group of Midland students were asked to decorate a 20-foot Christmas tree on campus, and they dressed only “the bottom seven or eight feet … the branches the kids could easily reach.” Sasse was “startled” — “shattered,” even. Seeing this Christmas tree “worried me for the kids.” So began his growing awareness of “a collective coming-of-age crisis without parallel in our history.” He noticed that the affliction he observed at Midland could be found in the households of his closest friends and even his own home. His daughters once complained of being unable to sleep because the air-conditioning was broken. Sasse was aghast. “When I was a kid, we had air conditioning in the house … but we never used it.” The fact that his daughters claimed a “need” for air-conditioning left him and his wife with “a heavy sense of failure.”

excerpted from the NYT book review, To Make America Great Again, Give Your Kids Chores