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? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.


Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

  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 Child101.
  5. Bennett, Finn, and Cribb, The Educated Child, 42.


About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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