- Our Kids – The American Dream in Crisis
- by Robert D Putnam
- Simon & Schuster
- Copyright 2015
- 261 pages
Rating (for pages 1-164, Chapters 1 through 4) – 7 out of 10
Sunday I continued with Robert D Putnam’s Our Kids. While I am still enjoying the book, I thought that Sunday’s pages were a disappointment. Putnam’s research is interesting. But his presentation is lacking. Our Kids would have been better if Putnam had worked with a co-author who improved the book’s pacing.
Chapter 3 – Parenting (pages 80-134)
Unfortunately, Our Kids bogs down at the beginning of Chapter 3. In the preceding chapters, Putnam has already provided profiles of kids growing up in different socioeconomic classes in both Port Clinton, Ohio, and in Bend, Oregon. Nonetheless, he begins Chapter 3 with still more of these profiles. The difference is that these kids live in the Atlanta area and all of them are black. This material might have worked if it were shorter, but Putnam drags it out for almost 30 pages (pp. 80-109).
Chapter 3 does pick up a bit when Putnam discusses what researchers have learned about parenting’s impact on child development. But he never fully regains the lost momentum.
Chapter 4 – Schooling (pages 135-164)
Things don’t improve much in Chapter 4. Putnam again begins with overly-long biographies of kids from different social classes. This time, the kids are all Hispanic and live in Orange County, California. By this point, Putnam has covered white, black, and Hispanic kids and the reader wonders if he’s just trying to cover his politically-correct bases.
For whatever reason, I found the school material to be more compelling than the parenting material from Chapter 3. Putnam discusses Hispanic Americans’ attempts to move to better school districts in order to pave the way for their kids to attend good colleges. At the same time, he profiles the Hispanic underclass that remains stuck in underperforming schools. (I still have 26 pages left in Chapter 4, so I’ll withhold final judgment for a while).
Putnam let me down Sunday. What I read wasn’t bad, but I can’t say that it was overly compelling, either. We’ll see if he can rally in the book’s remaining hundred or so pages.