From Publishers Weekly
Bérubé, a Penn State literature and cultural studies professor, doesn't deny that college campuses are "teeming with liberal faculty" in this circuitous retort to what he sees as an intensification over the last five years of conservative complaints about liberal "bias" in academe. Rather, the self-described progressive postmodernist (editor of The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies) vies with cultural conservatives for the position of "lonely voice in the wilderness": while conservatives feel embattled in the university setting, academics, Bérubé says, are beleaguered in the country at large, where the right wing dominates all three branches of government and much of mainstream media. Universities are necessarily liberal, Bérubé asserts, as independent intellectual inquiry is fundamental to democracy. Moreover, the authoritarian right's outraged objections to "anti-American" campuses are a testament to their "disbelief that liberalism still survives." Bérubé's points about the ascendance of the right will be well taken by progressives, but the level of meandering detail he devotes to his teaching experience and his own literature curriculum may feel less relevant to nonacademic readers
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Berube, a literature professor who admits to being a liberal progressive but maintains that he is politically noncommittal in the classroom, explores the charges by the Right that America's universities are biased toward liberalism. Drawing on 20 years of teaching and recent troubling developments in academe, Berube answers conservative critics and, more fascinating, explores the dilemma of liberal teachers in encouraging open debate but opposing racism, sexism, and homophobia. Debunking stories of professors failing students who don't toe the liberal party line, Berube maintains that the real threat to open debate is conservatives seeking to squelch liberal ideas in the name of "fairness" to more conservative perspectives. He cites academic bills of rights in some states that are aimed at discouraging challenges to conservative ideas on creationism and other topics. Threats of lawsuits by students claiming that their views have been ridiculed are having a chilling effect on classroom dialogue. Berube offers a passionate appeal for preserving the best notions of the liberal-arts education, a discipline that promotes critical thinking and independent inquiry. Vanessa Bush
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