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Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education Paperback – September 17, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393311139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393311136
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #469,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Decrying conservatives who claim higher education offers a choice between culture and barbarism, University of Chicago English professor Graff argues eloquently for a curriculum that includes political debates and multicultural texts. Though he brushes away charges of left-wing McCarthyism too easily, he skewers critic Dinesh D'Souza's claim that dead white males are being expelled firom required courses. Graff suggests that conservatives' only strategy to deal with conflicting views is to deny their legitimacy, and he wisely notes that the term common culture is always evolving. Using evidence from his own teaching, Graff shows how incorporating literary criticism written by the African novelist Chinua Achebe helped revise his teaching of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. He suggests that the ideological conflicts that accompany the curricular problem are getting students to grapple with ideas. Observing that students often have teachers with conflicting beliefs and assumptions in different classes, Graff concludes by surveying current innovative attempts at curriculum integration; oddly, he doesn't mention his own university's Great Books program.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Graff (English, Univ. of Chicago) here addresses Allan Bloom ( The Closing of the American Mind , LJ 5/1/87), Dinesh D'Souza ( Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus , LJ 3/15/91), and other conservative critics of multiculturalism and political correctness in the schools. He believes that teaching about cultural conflicts is a sign of vitality and hope and that it contributes to the development of a common culture. He debunks what he considers to be the myth of the vanishing classics and argues that the "course fetish" and "cult of the teacher" exacerbate conflict. Graff instead touts his program for incorporating conflicting and variant ideas into the curriculum as the best insurance for a democratic society. This provocative and controversial book is an essential acquisition for balanced subject collections.
- Shirley L. Hopkinson, SLIS, San Jose State Univ., Cal.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

GERALD GRAFF, a Professor of English and Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and 2008 President of the Modern Language Association of America, has had a major impact on teachers through such books as Professing Literature: An Institutional History, Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education, and, most recently, Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
In his early books, Literature Against Itself: Literary Ideas in Modern Society (1979) and Professing Literature: An Institutional History, Twentieth Anniversary Edition (1987), Graff took as his main subjects literary theory and the institutional history of departments of English and literature, respectively. LITERATURE AGAINST ITSELF continues to be of interest and value for its discussion and analysis of competing schools of literary theory; and the historical narrative of the history of the post-secondary teaching of English that informs PROFESSING LITERATURE continues to enlighten anyone interested in curriculum design and canon-making. But perhaps these two early books can also be appreciated for their having afforded Graff the opportunity to work out the foundational arguments and historical perspectives that enabled him in his later books -- Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education (1992) and Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind (2003) -- to effectively argue and explain why students across the curriculum would benefit from a more critical style of pedagogy.Read more ›
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Martin Asiner on October 13, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Jacques Derrida announced to what he saw as a patriarchal Western-based hegemony that the very basis of a two millennia tradition of belief in the essential goodness and regularity of the human soul was a fiction, it did not take long for the ripples to filter down into America's schools. The culprit that Derrida saw was nothing less than the Western illusion that paradox, ambiguity, and conflict lay subtly simmering within the pages of every text that seemingly attested to that illusion. In BEYOND THE CULTURE WARS, Gerald Graff writes of an American university pedagogy that has ossified into a hide-bound and rigid monolith that the majority of its students now reject as useless, pointless, and irrelevant. The solution, Graff suggests, is to admit that the entire educational system is severely dysfunctional, and the only way to make it functional is to apply Derrida's post-structural strategy of identifying these conflicts and teaching them as a means to make education once again both relevant and interesting. I agree that teaching conflict ought to be integral to any serious attempt to make education relevant. But when Graff identifies that only the teaching of conflict can do this, he is not only dead wrong but he misdirects the efforts of those who do see the need to incorporate the teaching of conflict as the only solution.

The flaw in Graff's basic assumption is one that he makes, in one form or another throughout his book, is to posit two extremes, one of which is the problem and the other the solution. What gets left out is the vast range of potential approaches that might work if he would admit of their existence. His starting premise is that education needs the jump start of the teaching of conflict to re-ignite what he sees as a moribund relevancy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
If anything, the public battle over what constitutes a necessary academic curriculum is more public, and more bitter, than it was when Graff wrote this book in 1992. Acrimonious name-calling and slurs are the order of the day. But Graff posits that, rather than long for a storybook consensus on what America's colleges ought to teach, we should teach the conflict that drives the debate. And he doesn't just suggest it, he shows how some schools already do it.

Graff dismantles the myth that America's colleges and universities once were pleasant havens of humanistic agreement. Bitter divides have been the order of the day since at least the 1860s, he says, and the conflicts that tear apart the academic canon today are only echoes of more than a century of debate over what constitutes knowledge. If we are to bridge that gap now, we must abandon the belief that things used to be simple and free of politics or conflict.

Instead of pining for a muddled vision of an apolitical past, or browbeating each other into a utopian future, we should make the differences in our views the centerpiece of the discussion, Graff says. Students will care a lot more, and learn a lot faster, if they can see the debates that surround their subjects. Teachers will learn more, and produce more relevant research, if they understand the intellectual climate of their topics outside their narrow fields.

Graff spends a lot of time addressing the dispute over teaching the canon in the late Twentieth Century. He may get tarred with the epithet "liberal" for his heavy focus on conservative critics. He points out William Bennett and Lynne Cheney by name, repeatedly, but doesn't hammer leftists with the same vigor.
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