Generous Orthodoxy  




Saturday, March 12, 2011

David Brooks: our best public ethicist

A wise and discerning friend, Tony Robinson, writes that David Brooks is the closest thing we have now to a public theologian. (Tony himself is a notable observer of trends in the culture: visit him at http://www.anthonybrobinson.com/personal.htm )

Yesterday's column, "The Modesty Manifesto," by David Brooks is a good example of his work. It was the most emailed article in the New York Times for more than 24 hours, trumping the earthquake and Libya. He must have struck a chord. Here is the link to that article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/11/opinion/11brooks.html?src=me&ref=general

Overpraising children, telling them how special they are, is coming in for increasing criticism. I have been thinking about this a lot, because I see it all around me. "Good job!" is uttered every five minutes, if a child puts a plate on the kitchen counter or slides down the hill on a sled. Nobody would ever accuse me of having an underdeveloped ego, but I don't remember my parents or grandparents ever saying "good job"! I don't remember ever being told that I was special. I don't remember them ever even telling me that they were proud of me. Their love for me and their expectations and aspirations for me were part of the atmosphere, never doubted by me for one moment. What was much more likely to be spoken was a lot of questions about what I was learning, and a lot of precious teaching about the subjects that my parents and other relatives knew a lot about. I think about their teaching all day every day. That's what a child carries for a lifetime, not effusive praise for every little thing they do. David Brooks' column on this subject is full of wisdom and insight.

David Brooks is often called "the liberals' favorite conservative." He is Jewish, but he comes across as more Christian than a lot of Christians. Not incidentally, perhaps, he went to the oldest Episcopal camp in the US, Incarnation Camp in Connecticut (where my children also went), and he is still an active supporter of the camp.

By the way: Tony Robinson has written an excellent article on this same subject, from a pastor's point of view. See it here:
http://crosscut.com/2011/02/22/books/20648/Praise:-Wouldn-t-honest-feedback-be-better-/