Book Review: The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse

Summary: Ben Sasse (Senator from Nebraska) explores the changes in the culture of coming-of-age adults in America between when he came of age and today’s youth. He deciphers the problems faced by many of today’s young people as they enter the workforce, and why they have a harder time succeeding and following the norms of society, and proposes some solutions for parents to take into account when raising the next generation of America’s workforce.

Review: Ben Sasse is one of my favorite Senators, from either side (I’m a Democrat, he’s a Republican, just letting y’all know). He is a master at social media (go follow his twitter, @bensasse, for minimal politics and lots of jokes), and he stands true to what he believes in. While I don’t agree with him on almost all of his policy, I believe he is a model for who our elected officials should be.

His new book, The Vanishing American Adult, is a really interesting look on the problems with the new generation coming of age in America and entering the workforce. Sasse looks at the experiences he’s had, first as the president of a college in Nebraska, and now as a Senator. And he sees a problematic situation with the culture of my generation.

From his exploration, Sasse believes that most millennials have not done the same amount of hard work before they enter the workforce as generations before. And I think he’s onto something here. I don’t necessarily believe that the types of hard work he describes in his book (most relate to farming) are totally important, but there is something missing from a lot of kids my age and slightly older.

The parenting culture over the past 20 or so years seems to be a lot about very kind supporting parents, and less about preparing kids to succeed on their own. Too many parents allow their kids to get whatever they want, and never tell their kids “no”. Sasse describes a situation similar to this in his book, about an employee at the college where he was president, as the young woman would do lackluster work until around 2:00, and then would go home. She couldn’t seem to comprehend that, when Sasse told her that wasn’t okay, she couldn’t do that anymore. She ended up being fired because she couldn’t understand the simple concept behind being told “no”.

Another key problem that many people of my generation know is an issue, but refuse to be proactive about, is financial literacy and being able to balance their personal checkbooks. Though many of my peers seem to notice this, they don’t figure out good ways to learn these skills. In the end, they become avid spenders and consumers, and the result is their being broke.

Consumption is a major concern expressed by Sasse, and one I share. He sees that many of America’s young people like to buy things they don’t really need. I’m guilty of this, as are many of my peers (and to my peers, I want us to get better about all of this, I’m not just attacking you as I’m guilty of most of this as well) buy and buy and buy, and they need little to none of it. This is a culture that can be incredibly harmful to many, leading to financial despair and reliance on parents beyond an acceptable age.

The final aspect of Sasse’s book I want to touch on is his views on travel. He believes we don’t travel for the experience, we just travel to see things and move on. He, with this belief, has solidified in me my desire for my post-high school road trip, in which I wish to travel the country to see viewpoints other than those from Denver. I want to meet the people, not just run through it all and see the sights. I think that’s something Senator Sasse would want us all to do.

Grade: A- (some parts I disagreed with but overall very interesting)

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