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The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook, Unabridged

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

ointing to contemporary attitudes on divorce, homosexuality, children born out of wedlock, fatherlessness and cohabitation as challenges to the stability of traditional marriage, bestselling author and former secretary of education Bennett (The Book of Virtues; The Death of Outrage) argues that people must take steps to restabilize the institution because "(t)he nuclear family, defined as a monogamous married couple living with their children, is vital to civilization's success." Articulate and impassioned as always, Bennett delivers a forceful defense of his position with selective quotations from studies like Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur's Growing Up with a Single Parent and What's Happening to the American Family? by Sar A. Klevitan et al.; prominent politicians like former senator Patrick Moynihan; and literary sources from the Bible to the pro-lesbian children's book Heather Has Two Mommies. Although Bennett refers in passing to being a child of divorce and offers the teachings of his Catholic faith as a template for marital constancy, he shares no personal anecdotes from his own presumably successful marriage. Nor does he quote interviews with other happily married couples or divorce survivors. As a result, the structure of the book resembles that of a legal brief (Bennett counts a law degree from Harvard among his many academic achievements). However, he does not include citations, as he would in a brief, for some of his more arresting pronouncements, such as, "Cohabiting couples show lower levels of sexual satisfaction than do married couples." In a too-brief discussion of remedies to reverse the trends he sees, Bennett proposes repealing no-fault divorce, reaffirming publicly the centrality of family with churches assuming moral leadership, tightening the payment structure for mothers with dependent children and supporting the Defense of Marriage Act. (Sept. 25)Forecast: Bennett's bestselling record and ability to act as a magnet for controversy will no doubt create an early sales spike. Some loyal readers may be disappointed, however, by his evasiveness about his personal experience.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

"The nuclear family is vital to civilization's success," argues the conservative social critic, practicing Catholic, and author of the best sellers The Death of Outrage (1998) and The Book of Virtues (1993). Bennett's new book traces the influence of Judaism, Christianity, and eras marked by large cultural changes (such as the Renaissance and Victorian England) on the development of the Western family. He then identifies and strongly attacks the contemporary social forces that he feels are destroying this institution. Concentrating his criticism on three social trends the wide acceptance of cohabitation, the institution of no-fault divorce, and the increasing acceptance of the idea of same-sex marriage the author argues that they cut into the family's moral foundation. He also indicts our society for its tolerance of the high rates of out-of-wedlock births and the low fertility rates of two-parent families and blames the courts for giving "primacy to the values of personal autonomy and individual liberties" instead of family unity. Most of all, he bemoans a shift in values to the view that how one defines a family is "no business of the wider community." Bennett's forceful assault on political correctness relies on his own deeply held beliefs. For public libraries where he has a following. Jack Forman, San Diego Mesa Coll. Lib., CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Abridged edition (September 25, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553714481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553714487
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1 x 4.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,198,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William J. Bennett served as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H. W. Bush and as Secretary of Education and Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Reagan. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Williams College, a doctorate in political philosophy from the University of Texas, and a law degree from Harvard. He is the author of such bestselling books as The Educated Child, The Death of Outrage, The Book of Virtues, and the two-volume series America: The Last Best Hope. Dr. Bennett is the host of the nationally syndicated radio show Bill Bennett's Morning in America. He is also the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute and a regular contributor to CNN. He, his wife, Elayne, and their two sons, John and Joseph, live in Maryland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By David E. Levine on November 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
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.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By James P. Brett on January 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Keith Heapes VINE VOICE on June 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
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.
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