Wednesday Wisdom from Thinker William Bennett

On my Facebook and Twitter pages I have implemented a weekly segment called #WednesdayWisdom, where I provide quotes from significant scholars from various disciplines. Education is a subject that I return to often because I think evangelical Christians need help in learning how to love God with their minds. One of my favorite educational change agents and political philosophers is William “Bill” Bennett. His lectures and writings have influenced my views about how a nation should educate its citizenry and I have used some of his books to instruct my own children.

I hope this brief biography of Bennett along with four of his provocative quotes will inspire and instruct you as they have me. I’ve used them in my social media segment and I’ll expand on these pearls of wisdom here.

Who is William J. Bennett?

William Bennett is a political philosopher, theorist, and commentator as well as an American educational reformer. He served as Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan and as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under George H. W. Bush. He is also a senior advisor to Project Lead The Way, a nonprofit organization that provides training and curriculum to improve STEM education in American schools. Bennett, a Roman Catholic, is the author and editor of more than a dozen books including The Book of Virtues and The Educated Child.

All four of these quotes focus on the education of children and are from the highly acclaimed book, The Educated Child, that Bennett coauthored with Chester E. Finn, Jr. and John T. E. Cribb, Jr.

1. On Learning Preparation

“You should supply five basic ingredients in these years before school: your love, protection, and care; your time; a positive learning environment; an attitude that values learning; and strong moral training.”1

In many ways being a good parent requires putting your children first. They need to be genuinely nurtured in mind, body, and soul. Teaching children to prize learning and grounding education in a sound moral philosophy of life pays great dividends for the whole family.

2. On Books

Under the heading, “Making Your House a Book House,” the authors state that “You want her to grow up in the presence of books and to think of them as things that make her home every bit as warm and comfortable as her favorite blanket or pet puppy. One of your first steps is to make sure books are plentiful.”2

C. S. Lewis, in describing his home as a youth, said that he was virtually born in a library. He states “[t]here were books in the study, books in the drawing-room, books in the cloakroom.”3 In other words, the great Christian author grew up in a home where books were plentiful and he was encouraged to read voraciously. Building a home environment where books are bountiful and viewed as essential, comforting aspects of life breeds lifelong readers and learners.

3. On Reading

“Good schools assume as their sublime and most solemn responsibility the task of teaching every child to read. Make no mistake, this is the critical business of education in the early years.”4

Reading is to the mind what food is to the body. Sharpening one’s thinking, speaking, and writing skills is deeply tied to reading. Success in school and in life are deeply connected to being able to read well. Parents and teachers, therefore, must make the task of creating robust readers top priority as early in a child’s life as possible.

4. On Children’s Classics

“You’ll want to expose your child to a wide variety of books. Some books, though, are better than others. Be sure to include children’s classics in the mix at your house—timeless stories children adore.”5

Not all books are created equal. Classics are inexhaustible. That is, the reader never gets to the end of them; never fully comprehends all they have to offer. Children’s classic books challenge minds and teach lessons that can last for a lifetime. Bennett’s text lists many great children’s stories.

While these four quotes focus on a child’s education, they apply to adults as well. William J. Bennett’s many books reflect his considerable learning as a philosopher, educator, and public intellectual. His diligence has provided all of us with plenty of Wednesday Wisdom.

Reflections: Your Turn

Are there public intellectuals that you’ve learned from? Which quote from above do you resonate with most?



  1. William J. Bennett, Chester E. Finn, Jr., and John T. E. Cribb, Jr., The Educated Child: A Parent’s Guide from Preschool through Eighth Grade(New York: The Free Press, 1999), 24.
  2. Bennett, Finn, and Cribb, The Educated Child, 41.
  3. C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (New York: HarperOne, 2017; London: Geoffrey Bles, 1955), 10.
  4. Bennett, Finn, and Cribb, The Educated Child, 101.
  5. Bennett, Finn, and Cribb, The Educated Child, 42.

  One thought on “Wednesday Wisdom from Thinker William Bennett

  1. Dorothy King
    October 8, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    i particularly love your column today and for me, education and my brain made the difference in my world. Plus I think that God created us with a brain to use and wants us to grow, challenge and learn (even at an older age). When I worked, I took courses that made me smarter and broadened my world. Thank you – I really like this column today. And the two people who were writers: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and CS Lewis shaped me permanently.

    • October 8, 2019 at 1:38 pm

      Thank you, Dorothy. I appreciate your comments.

      Ken Samples

  2. Russ Aubrey
    October 22, 2019 at 8:25 am

    I see this was first posted more than a year ago. So, I assume this reply will suffer silence. Nonetheless, it seems to me that Bennett is advising from the position of what he sees as the “ideal.” But it doesn’t work that way – often. In my case, my mom was an uneducated Depression-era child who only read at a sixth-grade level. There were no books in the house because she (and us) were also poor, By and by, I ended up as a professional print journalist and published fiction author. I think the lesson is that many, many people will have to progress to the good state that Bennett describes, on their own. It can be and is done. Not all is lost if the “ideal” doesn’t exist. Thanks.

    • October 22, 2019 at 1:24 pm


      Thanks for your comments.

      Actually my blog article on Bill Bennett was posted only a couple weeks ago (10/08/19).

      I can relate to your story as my parents also grew up during the Great Depression and were as a result quite limited in their formal education.

      But as a parent I have tried to strive towards Bennett’s ideal in exposing my children to books and the great joy and benefit of learning.

      I think Bennett would agree that many people face strong obstacles in life and have to exercise personal responsibility in striving toward their educational goals. But as you say it can be done.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

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