on November 25, 2001
In 1960, one in twenty births was out of wedlock. Now, the ratio is one in three. Celebrities such as Madonna and Jodie Foster have been upfront in getting pregnant but not getting married (thank God Madonna finally married her second child's father). Although the divorce rate peaked in 1980 (how much higher could it have gone?), it has not significantly decreased since then. Regardless of the fact that gays have legitimate rights to privacy, many groups advocate sanctification of the gay relationship in marriage.
Bill Bennett takes these issues on and, predictably enough, he decries the current situation. He notes that there has been some progress in solving our social ills such as a reduction in the welfare roles and a reduction in crime but, generally, the situation remains grim. I would have liked a better explanation of how the crime rate and welfare roles have decreased when there are so many out of wedlock births ... that seems to be inconsistent. However, I nontheless agree with his premise. A society which encourages strong families is more stable and has less social problems.
Certainly, some of Bennett's solutions are controversial, such as making divorce laws tougher. However, I agree that often while a spouse argues that it will be better for the kids if the marriage ends than if the kids live in a house with a rocky marriage, the opposite is in fact true. Unless there is abuse or some other catastrophic problem, how many children would vote to have Mom and Dad divorce if they had the choice? How many children, as opposed to their parents, are actually happier after a divorce? I would suggest very few are.
I am very conservative and the instability of the family is of deep concern to me. This book crystalizes my views and will be helpful in my formulating arguments for the preservation of the traditional family. Therefore, since Bennett echoes and elucidates my concerns, I like and recommend this book.
on October 10, 2001
I have been a fan of Mr. Bennett's since 1987 and have been following his career and reading several of his books since. I read through this book in a short period of time, as I found Mr. Bennett's outlining and argument of the problems in society that compelling. If you are in agreement with many of his views (i.e., against gay marriages, the need to eliminate the no-fault divorce laws), but have often found yourself weak in the substance area when debating these issues with others, this book is for you. He gives many statistics and examples supporting his views (I especially liked his arguments regarding simply "being in love" with someone and "committed" to them as not enough to support gay marriages or supporting easy divorce laws).
The only thing that I found lacking is that he did not propose good ways to implement the solutions. Many of the solutions he proposed, while logical, will not get passed as they are unpopular and will be taken as infringing on peoples' rights (and will ultimately gum up our court system further). In his defense, however, I do agree when he says that our leaders (he pointed out President George W. Bush in particular) need to take a stronger stand on DEMONSTRATING moral leadership rather than just stating it.
on January 1, 2002
I am sure Mr. Bennett is used to ad hominem attacks, as in Mr. Zimmerle's review of this book. While I don't agree with everything Mr. Bennett has to say, he's pretty much on the mark here.
Mr. Bennett starts with a review of the current state of our culture, which could be summed up as "do your own thing". He then provides a brief historical background on the way marriage and family evolved. Some of his better points come in a chapter entitled "Cohabitation, Illigitimacy, Fatherlessness". The biggest problem facing the black community in this country is not racism; it fatherlessness. Eighty percent of black children are born out of wedlock. This is profound.
As for cohabitation, if you read between the lines the message is pretty clear: women have been duped. There is much less respect for women now than 30 years ago. Further, despite its "common-sense" appeal, cohabitation is much more unfavorable to women than marriage.
Bennett addresses the push by homosexuals to be able to "marry". The one point I am in total agreement with him here is that homosexuals want more than "equal rights"; they want societal "approval" of their lifestyle. If history is any teacher at all, we know this is something we dare not allow.
Up until 1950 or so, the strength of this country came from our social fabric; those that deviated from established norms received public censure. This is no longer the case. In this respect, America is most certainly in deline. Can it recover in time, or at all? Mr. Bennett's proposed solutions will not be very successful unless we can "unprogram" an entire generation. Through movies and television, young people have been programmed to think of their own gratification first and foremost. Until that is changed, any significant progress towards restoring the importance of marriage and commitment will be greatly impeded.
William Bennett rarely writes a book that isn't timely, to the point, and addresses an issue, or issues, Americans need to hear. His books usually polarized readers to either strongly agree or strongly disagree with what he has to say. There are few who just sit on the fence. This book, The Broken Hearth, is no exception. In today's PC America, if an author addresses the "moral" collapse of some important part of our society, a segment of the population will nearly always begin throwing dirt in the air, crying foul! Regardless, Bennett boldly wades into deep water, carefully pointing out his concerns.
This book focuses on what Bennett calls the moral collapse of the American Family. After doing a general overview of the moral condition of our society as a whole, Bennett zeros in the significant changes in the family, especially marriage, in the 20th Century. In his usual straightforward manner, Bennett presents a strong and revealing summary, covering the subjects of cohabitation, illegitimacy, and fatherlessness. This is probably the strongest and most insightful chapter of Bennett's book. Written some eight years ago, what he wrote about then is right on target today.
Though some my disagree with me, like the radical feminists and gay activists, the family has always been the foundation of a society--the health of the family unit is a litmus test of how healthy civilization is as a whole. With such a large absent-father rate, especially in minority communities--80% of the black households and growing even larger, our families are fractured and degenerating fast. I agree with Bennett that with families in such a dismal condition it is no wonder we have dysfunctional and neurotic children growing up and flooding our prisons, mental hospitals, and welfare programs. Educators don't know what to do with them either, so they just pacify and pass them through the school system and on into the adult society.
Bennett is fearless in addressing the Gay agenda. As an historian in his own right, he points out that ours is not the first society to wrestle with a growing homosexual population. Most of us know that a failure to read, understand and learn from the past will surely doom a society. Look what happened to great and powerful Roman society. As a result of their conciliatory response, the strength of their communities and government were so eroded until the entire society collapsed under the weight of its own immoral blight. They weren't the only civilization that suffered this end either. And now, here we are again!
Bennett's chapter on divorce is more of a reminder than new insight. His statement, "Almost every reader of this book has either been divorced for knows a family member or friend who has been divorced. And yet almost every reader of this book over the age of fifty can also remember a time when divorce was not only rare but was regarded as a catastrophic event." is familiar, but are we really listening? We are told today that the divorce rate is actually going down. If I learned anything in school, it was that statistics can be manipulated to say pretty much anything you want them to say. Do I sound like a skeptic? On this matter...you bet.
William Bennett wraps up his relatively short book with a chapter entitled A Few Home Truths. If you choose to read The Broken Hearth, which I highly recommend, don't fail to read this chapter too. It's the frosting on the cake.
As many readers probably did, I was also looking for what Bennett saw as possible solutions to the problems he identified. I realized these issues are so large they don't have an easy fix. Like it or not, they are now part of the social fabric of who we are. But that shouldn't prevent individuals, from getting involved--Like William Bennett did. Just look at the waves Bill Cosby created when he pointedly addressed the failings of the black community. He took a beating, but that didn't stop him. For some of these issues, it may be a matter of how to get started. Nearly every author is reachable by phone, e-mail or letter. Since he didn't address this in his book, I say let's ask Mr. Bennett how he suggests we start. For those brave hearts who are interested, I will do a little research on how to contact Mr. Bennett and add that information to my review.
One side note: After reading the reviews and comments to reviews on this book, I would like to add the following. If you're going to write a review of The Broken Hearth, or add comments to another review, please respect the author, Amazon.com, and the other reviewers by at least reading the book, the entire book, before commenting. And also please refrain from spilling your socio-ideological guts out all over Mr. Bennett instead of adding a beneficial and thoughtful review. By doing so, everyone wins.
on August 4, 2013
William Bennett has written a book which should be widely read by our political leaders and law makers, and should be required reading in high schools and above. Western civilization cannot long survive the rejection of God and the institution of marriage as He created it. Whilst I do not agree with everything that Mr Bennett says, I do concur with his overall arguments. This book is highly recommended.
on November 8, 2001
Bennett has correctly described the present dilemma of marriage and family in America. Maybe Bennett can raise it up again like Lazarus because Marriage has died and psychology has killed it. In a psychologized society, it isn't just that we are no longer required to bear suffering. It becomes an act of self-betrayal not to leave our unhappy marriage and seek our "soul mate" or our "true selves." The traditional family has degenerated from a social institution to a psychological relationship; from a married man and woman with their own biological children to any kind of loosely-gendered partners, haphazardly-acquired progeny or drive-in occupants of any single abode.
The remnants of Freud's seduction theory can be seen in the psychologized fusion between sex and love in the last 50 years, a fusion that did not exist before in Western civilization, except as poet's flights of fancy which only the most naive would care to emulate in their real life.
The combination of Freud's theories that has sex funding most human behaviors, and our psychologized cultural paradigm shift from goals and principles to roles and feelings has turned our emotional and love relationships into a competitive manic-depressive playing field. The reason we have such difficulty is that sex has been thrust forward as a role rather than remaining in the background of our lives as a biological goal. Our natural sex drive has been twisted into an unnatural self-image that we term "sexuality," or "sexual orientation." We have subverted the physiological sex drive to be the handmaiden of psychological self-esteem.
In today's culture we are not a human being with a biological sex drive so much as a sexy person based upon our looks, our age, our clothes, our personality, our self-esteem, or how much money and power we have. In a society where most people would choose to be sexy and high rather than loveable and stable, sex and power naturally begin to seem more important than love and community. We have questions that no one seems to be able to answer. How do I know when it's "real love?" What about romance, stars in my eyes and soul mates?
The desire for a soul mate is a misapprehension. We must each relate to the cosmos alone, not through another person. Any soul mate we may find will devolve into a person with flaws, and unless we understand this our search will last forever. The mystics have always told us that love is the basic material we are all made of, what the universe is made of, and when we chip away all that is not us, we are all revealed as being love-not being in love, being love itself. When we become revealed as love we no longer have stars in our eyes, we are the very stars themselves.
The idea of marriage and family as moral principles sustaining a civil society has systematically devolved to the idea of marriage and family as psychologically sanctioned methods of securing happiness, legal rights and government benefits for individuals. Yes, Bennett is right. The institution of marriage has been so eroded in the last few decades that it is barely hanging on as a sane, noble, common-ground, higher-mind harbor into which we may profitably steer our primal-mind sexual instincts. Hollywood and romance novelists notwithstanding, our culture needs to renew the idea of marriage as an institution rather than some kind of a psychological goody box that we dip into until we come up empty and then we just walk away. A. B. Curtiss author of Depression is a Choice: Fighting the Battle Without Drugs.
This book is an examination of how the family is unraveling in Western society. Bennett looks at all the worrying signs: the erosion of marriage, the increase in divorce, the promotion of alternative lifestyles, the degrading of values, the increase in cohabitation, and the triumph of radical feminism, individualism and hedonism.
These trends, taken together, have had an enormous impact on Western culture.
Consider but one of the monumental changes taking place to day: the push for homosexual marriage. "What is being demanded," says Bennett, "Is the most revolutionary change ever made to our most important institution." To radically alter the nature of marriage is to at the same time pry marriage from its cultural, social, religious and biological underpinnings. Once done, it then can be redefined by anyone at will.
Bennett is clever enough to realize that there is no single cause to the collapse of the traditional family. The are economic, legal and cultural reasons one can adduce. For example, radical feminism has taken its toll. So too have liberalized divorce laws. The massive increase of working mothers is another factor. The rise and triumph of the sexual revolution is yet another important factor.
And he is not asking us to turn back the clock - at least not all of it. Some social changes of the past have century have been helpful. But if the over-all direction we are taking is unproductive, and in fact harmful, then it is time to reassess our direction.
As C.S. Lewis has reminded us, progress can only be achieved by getting to where you want to go to. If you have taken a wrong turn along the way, the first step is to go back to that point. And if over thirty years of social science research is correct in telling us that marriage and family breakdown are serious and damaging social problems, then the sooner we start our u-turn, the better.
Bennett says that while we all must play a part in the rescue of marriage and family, it is important that societies and governments also play their role. And he reminds us that social trends are not irreversible. "Other social problems once thought to be intractable have, after all, yielded to resolute action." The negative trends we see all around us can be turned around, if the have the commitment and care to see things change.
Part of the way we turn things around is to tell people the truth - the truth that marriage and family are good for children, for parents and society. And this book helps to make that case.
on December 19, 2004
Conservative stalwart and political lightning rod William Bennett believes America is rotting from within and the deterioration of family values is to blame. With a mountain of evidence to back him up (single-parent children are more likely to drop out of school, use drugs and suffer physical abuse at home), Bennett shows how co-habitation, divorce and fatherlessness are doing more than just harming the traditional view of "family"; they are working to undermine our country's productivity, safety and way of life.
Clearly, the reaction to this book will rely heavily on the reader's own values. Those who believe in the model of the nuclear family will agree with most of Bennett's points, as his logic and evidence are solid. But acceptance of Bennett's arguments will require a reader to believe the nuclear family and civilization go hand-in-hand, and many in our country do not share that opinion. To some, the nuclear family works as an institution of oppression against women, children and individuality, and to those people, Bennett's entire premise will appear faulty.
Bennett's strongest arguments come in his evidence of how fatherlessness harms children tremendously and how the current politically correct culture works to suppress that fact. To back up his claim, Bennett uses the opinions of two men who would be on the 20th Century Liberal Mt. Rushmore, Martin Luther King and Daniel Patrick Monahan. Through their words, Bennett is able to create a strong argument that this issue is not just one for conservatives. Dr. King himself said one of the greatest ills in the black community was the increasing presence of single-parent homes. Bennett says today's numbers would shock King, as fatherlessness has increased three-fold throughout much of the country. If Dr. King were concerned about that issue in the 1960s, what would he think of it today?
While his evidence on divorce, co-habitation, and fatherlessness seem to work well in his argument, Bennett becomes sidetracked on the issue of homosexuality and seems to have an almost obsessive fixation on the subject. He never makes a clear case as to why this issue as important as the others (he tires, but it is a reach), and would have been wise to stay avoid the subject.
on June 2, 2005
I normally do not rate books on Amazon, but after reading the reviews for this one, and then hearing what it has to say - Well everyone should get a copy, and then learn to live by the convictions that are in it. Timely, and Timeless - good book - it will be reread again, and again.
on July 13, 2002
William Bennett has a knack for turning out relatively short books that manage to be both timely and timeless. The Broken Hearth shines a spotlight on the deteriorating state of the nuclear family. In a straightforward manner, he advocates common sense and traditional virtues. He intellectually articulates obvious facts which are far too often simplistically dismissed as antediluvian or discriminatory by powerful forces throughout society. One of Mr. Bennett's strong points is his dedication to veraciously stating the facts--even when they prove to be very inconvenient.
Discussing the spiraling rate of single parent households, he ignores the feel-good cliches and boldy says, "in attempting to raise children without two parents, we are seeing on a massive scale, the voluntary breakup of the minimal family unit. This is historically unprecedented, an authentic cultural revolution and I believe socially calamitous." Then Rather than citing specious studies showing the veritable irrelevance of parents, he acknowledges some of these much-ballyhooed findings and astutely refutes them.
The subject of gay marriage has become very controversial and even many who know how deleterious and debased the concept is, shy from enunciating the problems with such a notion. Here Mr. Bennett truly deserves commendation for his head-on approach in arguing the sensible, but politically untenable position against imploding the sanctity of marriage. He writes the truth in all its unpopular, activist-enraging glory, "tolerance means treating people with respect and without malice; it does not require us to dissolve social norms or to weaken our commitment to ancient and honorable beliefs." While legions of movers and hordes of shakers will cringe at the mention of it, Mr. Bennett hits a home run with "if same-sex marriage were to prevail, society would have to accept certain basic assumptions; it would have to accept that Jewish and Christian understanding of marriage and family life is simply wrong." While his couragous statement is potent as is, to further enforce his argument and co-opt a politically correct shibboleth to boot, he could have added that Islam, Buddhism, and several other religions view the concept of homosexuality marriage as decadent and are far more condemning of it that Judaism and Christianity. Equally polemic is the painfully true statement that "for homosexuals themselves gay liberation has wrought much agony, instability, promiscuity, and early death." Still his blunt acknowledgement shows compassion that activists often lack; not everyone is happy in the sexually uninhibited gay lifestyle.
In perhaps the book's most appropriate passage, he countervails the charge that conservatives overlook the transgressions of like-minded players. Mr. Bennett validly denounces Newt Gingrich for the extra-marital affair, and he gets to the heart of the former Speaker's peccadillo. Too many conservatives concentrated on the authentic difference that Bill Clinton's adultery lead to felonious crimes, while Newt was merely morally guilty. Mr. Bennett wisely ignores that diversionary fact in chastising Gingrich for his serious wrongdoing. He comments that "to the degree that Newt Gingrich was criticized, and he was, it was for his hypocrisy...Gingrich's hypocrisy was disturbing, but so too were his actions."
"The Broken Hearth" offers no banal quick-fix to a crisis that has been decades in the making, but it comprehensively summarizes the precariousness of where we now find ourselves. Hopefully it will serve as an impetus for a few readers to reevaluate their lives. A problem that didn't develop overnight will not be solved quickly either.