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The Opening of the American Mind

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0807031193
ISBN-10: 0807031194
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Editorial Reviews Review

In 1987 The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom's famously ferocious critique of the corrosive effects of political correctness in American universities, exploded like a bomb in the halls of the academy; even today, its conservative analysis is constantly enlarged upon by academics and political pundits alike, from Dinesh D'Souza to William J. Bennett. In The Opening of the American Mind, Lawrence W. Levine has produced a direct rebuttal. The conservative complainers are, he says, discomfited by perfectly healthy developments in education. Levine argues that opening the academic canon to cultures beyond Western civilization is a natural and laudable outgrowth of the increasing diversity of America. The universities are changing, says Levine, to keep in touch with the real world, and are "doing a more thorough and cosmopolitan job ... than ever before." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Responding to critics of the university as a bastion of PC, historian Levine (Black Culture and Black Consciousness) provides some worthy context. Curricula have always been evolving, he stresses, and historians long ignored non-Western and social history. The university, he adds, has also been evolving; however, his observation that the balkanized campus merely reflects endemic American fragmentation ignores how universities can act to further separatism or integration. Levine is most effective in explaining how the Great Books and Western Civilization courses developed to shape American identity after WWI, and how American literature entered the canon 50 years ago. Many historians, he notes, did not accept the "melting pot" notion and believed that ethnic distinctiveness could be prized; every criticism of integration today has been made before. Levine contends rationally that multicultural studies and "the new historiography" do not cause fragmentation but reflect it. Still, however accurate his argument may be in general, it has a detached air and will not fully engage those who decry campus excesses. 40,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (August 14, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807031194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807031193
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,390,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

127 of 149 people found the following review helpful By Brett Williams on July 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
Levine sounds reasoned until the reader asks questions. He notes that at Berkeley the white student population declined from 68% in 1974 to 37% in 1994 while 75% of America was white at that time. Assuming all is equal, which of course it isn't, one would expect equal representation by demographic percentage. The obvious question is, if America were 75% white in 1994, why would only 37% be admitted to Berkeley? Could whites be disadvantaged, incapable of passing Berkeley's rigorous standards, or because Berkeley practices racist admission policies? Levine writes this "is more representative of the nation's population," but as it fails numerically the reader is left to wonder in what way it is more representative? He adds that Berkeley became the first major university with a majority of minority students, revealing early his emphasis on race, not education, and his philosophy, as expanded on by Arthur M. Schlesinger's "Disuniting Of America."

Levine's book is a response to Alan Bloom's critique of modern American university education in "The Closing Of The American Mind." Bloom is at times recklessly and conveniently misrepresented while at others accurate enough to cause wonder at what Levine could possibly disagree with? Levine paints Bloom as anti-multiculturalist. However, as Bloom notes, Herodotus was a multiculturalist too, as all should be, but with a different intent than now practiced in America: to learn what was unknown about the human condition, not to return from his travels to dismantle his homeland by removing Greek (Western) thinking as a "bias" suppressive of others, which is Levine's position repeated throughout the book, generally between the lines.
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61 of 73 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
Why has no one provided a good rebuttle to Bloom? This is the best I've seen, and it's not very strong. Sure, it's slick and full of grand academic watchwords. But it smacks of the blind veneer of today's academia, full of a baseless hope in ideologies that are D.O.A.. I had to read Bloom's book about 3 years ago as part of a course, and I read it with many doubts. But having graduated, now reflecting on my own experience and the sad ineffectual responses to "Closing", I am starting to think that maybe Bloom was right: Our universities are in trouble, and Levine, by trying to say otherwise, only proves it to be the case.
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76 of 100 people found the following review helpful By S. Greenhouse on November 10, 2001
Format: Paperback
It is amazing how Levine starts his book with an equivocating tirade. He is audacious and generous enough to offer a list of well written critiques of the intellectual establishment, but then he goes on citing the most conservative members of the political establishment. Why? The answer is obvious: He wants the innocent reader to believe that all the authors of the well-reasoned critiques he so loathes are nothing but narrow-minded political right-wingers--thus confounding Allen Bloom with Buchanan. This is simply outrageous. Levine does what is so typical of his ilk--he politicizes. Thus he does exactly that what he accuses the others of doing-but don't do.
This book is enlightening only in so far as it may serve as an example of the kind of thinking responsible for the plight of the humanities today. Levine simply fails-or, what would be worse-willingly fails to understand his opponents. He does not meet with their arguments. Levine, in the manner so typical of contemporary intellectuals, leaches onto the intellectually superior Allen Bloom as he inverts the title of Bloom's book. He thus reveals both the resentment and the very lack of insight among those who house academia today.
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68 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Dave Huber on November 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Like the longevity of most useless academic fads, it seems the bane of ideological multiculturalism will be with us for the foreseeable future. The question for its opponents (or those who would merely like to inject some common sense into it) is simply, "What can we do about it?" Or, more pessimistically, "Is there anything we can do about it?" If one believes Lawrence Levine in The Opening of the American Mind, there's nothing to get uptight about. To him, multiculturalism is just an extension of the university's (and thus, academia's in general) continuing evolution. This indeed may be true; however, Levine, while claiming the academy "has always been political," conveniently glosses over modern (ideological) multiculturalism's [more and more] overt leftist agenda. And, he appears to contradict himself: while praising the increasing "openness" of the university, he blatantly fails to see the "clamp down" on dissenting political views - that is, views deemed "insensitive" (in the university's overused jargon) to any group that campus leaders declare.

Levine chides critics of the modern university saying they foster fears of "an eroding hierarchy and the encroachment of democratic society into the academe..." How does Levine define "democratic?" Most folks equate democracy with freedom, which includes freedom of thought. Ideological multiculturalism, however, does not allow for this facet of democracy; in fact, it has more in common with the former East Bloc definition of "democracy," which was an oxymoron. Apparently as an example of this "new" democracy, Levine states that the university "is one of the more successfully integrated and heterogeneous institutions in the United States." He notes that Berkeley has gone from 68.6 percent white in 1974 to 32.
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