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Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students Paperback – April 3, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
This work by a University of Chicago professor was a bestseller in cloth. According to PW, "marred by the author's biases, this jeremiad laments the decay of the humanities, the decline of the family and students' spiritual rootlessness and unconnectedness to traditions."
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Bloom is angry about college studentstolerant of everything, they cannot appreciate the virtues of Lockean democracy and often abandon the great questions about God and man. Meanwhile, the humanities are like "a refugee camp where all the geniuses driven out of their jobs and countries . . . are idling." The reason is partly relativism in the social sciences but largely German philosophers since Nietzsche, especially Heidegger, who "put philosophy at the service of German culture." Bloom's case about the humanities and German philosophy deserves an ear, but his students from "the twenty or thirty best U.S. universities" are nothing like my recent American students, who pursue the old questions with vim and vigor. Perhaps they do not belong to Bloom's elite. Leslie Armour, Philosophy Dept., Univ. of Ottawa, Canada
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Okay in all honesty I expected this book to be a shallow polemic along the lines of some of the "popular" authors today, pushing an agenda and setting up straw man arguments, to provide an illusion of balance. Bloom, never backs down or even bother to set up "illusory" counter theses to further his, he just piles on the examples, historical as well as contemporary to nail his indictment of the vapidness of modern "Higher Education."
His thesis that the university today, reflects the general detachment of American society from the Puritan moral values that were paramount throughout American history, is conclusion that I would not have put together.
Is this book dated? When I started reading it I would ha e said yes, but as I digest the matter I have just completed, I see in myself the same sins of "culture" and value relativism that he sees as the symptom of the deconstruction of a Liberal education. As a engineering graduate, I hear in my own thoughts of a "superior" education that had very little of the messy humanities as part of my experience. I see that attitude as a shortcoming after reading Bloom, and one that sadly will be difficult to correct. Not that I am going to give up my technical high-paying career to become a philosopher, but I will now be forced to read and reread the very authors that Bloom uses to bolster his argument that it is those questions about values and the role of Man in relation to everything else that is important.
I found myself lost in a sea of ideas that I really had not considered at times and Bloom has the tendency to be over pedantic at times. My lack of depth to fully critique his philosophical and historical arguments provides hope that perhaps I will broaden the depth of my literary and historical perspective as Bloom suggests is the failing of my liberal education.
While this book is 30 years old his ideas are just as relevant because the problems he diagnosed are still present, only more advanced than before. That he was able to see where things were going only shows how wise Bloom was. With all the current discussion surround the decline of American education, it is interesting to point out that this decline began around the time when Bloom argues that higher education turned away from it's original purpose.
The only caution I would advise the reader of this book is that the middle section goes into serious philosophy, as Bloom tracks the origins of the current thinking in higher education back to Nietzsche. Philosophy is a hobby of mine and I found it challenging to follow. You might want to read some primers on Nietzsche to have some understanding of him before you read this. Don't let that scare you though. Even if you don't understand everything that a good book has to say it's still worth the effort to try.
Bloom describes the purpose of education and what a university education should be. He examines both the students that were arriving on campuses in the Eighties and the effects of modern life on children and teens that affected them and influenced what they would become by the time they were college-aged.
Much of the book discusses German philosophy and its role in turning the United States into a more relativistic society. The definition of "open-mindedness" has been changed by relativism and postmodernism, leading to a sense of unrootedness in modern life and leading to internal contradictions in the university and in Western societies in general.
While one does not have to be particularly observant to note that the free speech and free thought that are essential to civilization are under increasingly severe assault in the twenty-first century in America, that baneful trend was already affecting the country by the time Bloom wrote this volume, and the author plumbs the forces that are steadily moving us away from freedom and liberty and toward an authoritarian "everyone has to think the same...or else" mindset both on and off campuses.
"The Closing of the American Mind" created a great sensation nearly thirty years ago, and it almost goes without saying that the book is even more vital today than it was then. The philosophy in the book is challenging, but still fairly accessible, to those without extensive grounding in that discipline. This volume contains so many great insights and is so deep that it is one of those books that really needs to be read twice for the reader to benefit from it fully.