Our Kids

Greg Forster | April 29, 2015

Robert Putnam. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015. 400 pp. $28.00.

Robert Putnam’s Our Kids has made a big splash. It’s prompted discussion and debate on all the biggest editorial pages and across the web. The content of the book is less important to these discussions than the symbolic importance of the fact that one of the major intellectual heroes of the American Left is arguing that the breakdown of the family destroys the poor. I wish I could write two reviews: one of Our Kids the book—the actual words printed on the pages—and another of Our Kids the public phenomenon. The latter is much better than the former.

The book is subtitled The American Dream in Crisis. This may cause misunderstanding for evangelicals, who these days tend to use the phrase “American dream” with contempt, associating it with selfish materialism. For Putnam, however—as for most Americans, according to surveys—the phrase “American dream” has nothing to do with wealth and materialism. It means we all have an equal opportunity, regardless of birth or station, to get a solid education and make a decent living for ourselves. Putnam writes:

My hometown was, in…

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