Monday, 7 June 2010

Book Review: The Seventeen Traditions, by Ralph Nader (2007)


Consumer advocate, presidential candidate and author Ralph Nader reflects on the traditions that shaped his life as a child of Lebanese immigrants, growing up in small town Connecticut. In The Seventeen Traditions, Nader reveals his parents' philosophy towards child-rearing, covering everything from table manners, civic responsibility, helping with chores, appreciating charity, reading, nurturing a positive, can-do attitude, and encouraging an inquisitive, ever questioning mind.

At the heart of all the traditions is a close knit family that emphasizes direct, hands-on parenting and engagement between the parents and their children. Another common thread is an appreciation of familial and cultural history, and the passing on of family values both by living them and evoking them as needed.

The book could have be equally been titled "The Seventeen Habits of Highly Successful Families". Nader draws straight lines between his remarkable career achievements and the life lessons that he learned at home. The achievements of his three siblings are no less impressive.

Nader clearly has a deep appreciation and immense affection for the way his parents handled his upbringing, and is more than happy to hold them up as a stellar example to be followed.

There are a couple of flaws in this book: an extremely tedious 31 page introduction in which Nader describes every lake, river, flower, tree and rock that surrounded his childhood home; and a persistent "dem were the de good old days" sentiment that grows tiresome and demonstrates very little appreciation of any child engagement product beyond traditional toy building blocks.

But even in the 21st century, there is much that society can re-learn from the deceptively simple but powerful traditions that so benefited Nader's upbringing.

150 pages, including illustrations.
Published in hardcover by HarperCollins.





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