April 20, 2015

Robert Putnam's "Our Kids": Compelling Argument Poorly Argued

There’s an epidemic out there. Poor kids these days don’t have a chance, and it’s getting worse.

Robert Putnam, with the help of an uncredited assistant (on the cover, at least), gathered storied of young adults and melded those stories of haves and have-nots with larger statistical trends to tell the story of how the educated class is ,moving away from the uneducated class. There are copious charts and graphs.

I really wanted to like this, since it covers a lot of the same ground as the recent Charles Muarry Book “Coming Apart,” and for ideological reasons I don’t want to read Muarry. The problem is that there’s no hook. The kid’s stories should be what grips you and pulls you into the text, but it doesn’t work. I think there’s too many so I can’t fully live their stories, or perhaps Putnam and company are better analytical thinkers than storytellers for generating pathos. Whatever it was, I was unengaged. It was good enough to finish, but it did not compel me to write marginalia. If you have to read this for a class, it will be readable but it might not pull you in if it is leisure time reading.