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  • Writer's pictureAmy Lore

More than Free Will: A Review of Ian Rowe’s "Agency"

Updated: Jun 29, 2023

Rowe, Ian. 2022. Agency: The Four Point Plan (F.R.E.E.) for All Children to Overcome the Victimhood Narrative and Discover their Pathway to Power. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press. Price: $21.72 (hardcover)

Ian Rowe’s 2022 book on human agency outlines itself in its subtitle. There is a quick and easy flow to his observations and critiques of modern American social structures, beginning with the simple premise of the inherent value of the individual and the individual’s capacity to effect change.

Releasing himself immediately from the twin constraints of political mob-speak, Rowe dismisses assumptions of blaming the system or blaming the person. His analysis is more refined, acknowledging the observable combination of both systems and individual choices in the lives we live. Rowe’s work focuses on the influence of family, religion, education, and entrepreneurship after building a case for each through his personal experiences and historical data.

Rowe’s offering is a refreshing departure from the overused jargon of equity so common in educational writing that it is beginning to lose its meaning. It is difficult not to let out a whispered “amen” to his insight into the race to mediocrity that surrounds equity concerns. Achievement gaps, as alarming as they are, are less egregious than the overall poor performance of the American student in basic competencies.

Agency is an accessible title, easily read by its target audience – anyone who desires to see the lives of young people improve. Rowe incorporates biographical narrative with contemporary political debate throughout his book, creating an engaging argument that relies on national data and a strong review of relevant psychological and social literature.

Ultimately, Agency revives a decades old refrain that it takes a community to raise a child, but defines what community means. Rowe’s community is centered on the family, surrounded by religious practice. It is enhanced by robust education and flourishes through entrepreneurship.

I join Rowe in his call to rise not to mediocrity but to excellence. We should amplify that call by giving our children the most basic instructions that have been proven over time to build wealth and health in human lives. The success sequence (graduate high school, work full time, and marry before having children) is not something special that needs to be reserved for charters and private schools.

This is a basic formula that should be common knowledge to all, but especially to the least of us, if we have the fortitude to share it. As Rowe wrote in the inscription of my signed copy of his book, "know that your courage can be infectious.”

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