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Education's End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life Paperback – September 23, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300143141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300143140
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #666,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"'No question that the humanities are in a bad way in education at the present, and this book offers not just an argument that they should be more highly prized, but a carefully reasoned position of what happened, why it did, and what needs and can be done about it.' Alvin Kernan, author of In Plato's Cave 'Kronman... shows how colleges, in abandoning the profound questions that have perplexed philosophers and writers throughout human history, have betrayed their students, depriving them of disciplined rumination before they're caught up in the urgent business of adult life. In Education's End, he writes that in emphasizing the secular, professors offer no recognition of the spirit and spiritual values.' Washington Times"

About the Author

Anthony T. Kronman is Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School. Since stepping down as Dean of the Law School in 2004, he has been teaching in the Directed Studies Program at Yale and devoting himself to the humanities.

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Customer Reviews

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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Avant on August 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Professor Kronman's book fills a lamentable gap in the literature pertaining to higher education, to the extent that most of what is written on higher education today is rather empty. This is the kind of book that a thoughtful person, having finished college, would come across and, after having read it, would realize that they were utterly misguided in their undergraduate career. That being said, I feel the book should be required reading for anyone considering graduate school regardless of the field of study. His analysis of the "modern research ideal" seems to me right on. I would, however, agree with some previous reviewers that the book could have been shorter, and at times I found myself painfully aware that he was making a point he had aready sufficiently made. Nonetheless, the final chapter is quite profound and alone worth the cost of the book.

Yet, as a side note I find it striking that no mention of St. John's College in Sante Fe and Anapolis was made in the book. The "great books" programs at Yale, Columbia, etc simply cannot begin to compare with that of St. John's College. This omission is difficult to reconcile considering that the author sees the "great books" tradition and its secular humanism as the best way out of the current education crisis, and, quite simply, no other college or university better represents secular humanism than St. John's.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By EPCIII on September 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
Education's End is fascinating and provides a persuasive argument for the restoration of liberal education. Kronman argues that the central role of the humanities should be to enable undergraduates to address the question of the meaning of life. He traces the historical development of colleges and universities as they have moved from the antebellum colleges with their theistic answers to this fundamental question and through the phase where secular humanism offered alternative answers. According to Kornman, the humanities in our institutions of higher education have recently been neutered by the dual domination of the academic research ideal and political correctness. His book concludes with an optimistic chapter predicting the return of secular humanism with the diminution of political correctness, the increasing hunger for answers to the question of the meaning of life, and the inability of traditional religions to provide answers to this question.
Kronman's central arguments are insightful and persuasive but some of his supporting arguments are overly simplistic. A minor point is that he states that nineteenth century German universities were first and most influential in promoting research as an academic ideal. In fact, academic specialization began in Scotland when the regenting system was abandoned at the University of Edinburgh in 1707 and at the University of Glasgow in 1727. Some of the chairs at Glasgow supporting specialization and the dates of their establishment were: mathematics (1691); botany and anatomy (1704); and medicine (1713). The discipline of chemistry flourished in Scotland during the second half of the eighteenth century.
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16 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Liechty on January 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Kronman points to a very real and important trend in modern higher education. He gives a very cogent half-diagnosis of the source as well - that of the urge within humanities disciplines to ape the research methods of the natural sciences and thus exclude any sort of prescriptive 'values' from the research paradigm. However, Kronman underplays an even more important part of the source of the problem - the fact that a socially all-pervasive 'free market' mentality subtley and overtly pushes all that cannot be assigned a quantified ('bottom line') demarcation to the periphery of what is viewed as important, and finally legitimate, in human life. This is much more broadly manifested than in academia (witness how completely political legitimacy and fund-raising totals are equated in the current election cycle) but it is certainly also manifest in the concerns toward which Kronman points. Interesting is the fact that just as many in the 'hard' sciences, confronting the connections between their research and such realities as our genetic future, global warming, radical consumption inequality between and within societies, our continuing addiction to war and militarism, and so on, are beginning to recognize that the 'value-free' research model has always been more ideal than real, the humanities folks now jump on the same paradigmatic bandwagon. Kronman puts his finger on a real issue, but his analysis is arguably more focused on a case in point symptom than on the real source of the problem itself.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tojagi on April 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
Everyone talks about nihilism, but no one does anything about it.

Kronman divides the history of the American university into three periods:

1.) Founding of Harvard in 1636 to the Antebellum period
2.) From the Antebellum period to the late Sixties
3.) From the late Sixties to the present

In the first period higher education was a very rigid curriculum primarily based on the Bible and the Classical authors. The second period Kronman calls the period of `secular humanism' in which the spirit of searching for profound Truth was kept alive but it wasn't necessarily anchored to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Of the final period, from the late Sixties to the present, Kronman writes:

"In this third phase, the question of life's meaning has ceased to be a recognized and valued subject of instruction even in the humanities. It has been expelled from our colleges and universities, under pressure from the research ideal and the demands of political correctness." (p46)

Kronman says this... and says this...and says this again... and then says it again. The most important ideas of the book are hammered home. I get the impression this is a lawyer writing to the general public, repeating everything he says four times as lawyers might do, so as not to be misconstrued, yet writing in plain English so civilized people like me can read it.

Nevertheless, it's a fine book with an important message. The idea that the humanities took a nosedive since the late Sixties is nothing new. Here is a quote by the scholar Joseph Campbell (1904 - 1987) who taught humanities at Sarah Lawrence College for thirty-eight years.

"For instance, in the colleges the liberal arts are sinking.
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