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Tenured Radicals, Revised: How Politics has Corrupted our Higher Education Paperback – May 1, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Citing examples of specialized constituencies using unconventional approaches to higher education, this controversial study argues that "yesterday's radical is today's tenured professor or academic dean." "To the debate awakened by Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind and E. D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy , this sobering assessment is a pointed contribution," PW said.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A stinging account...provokes constant reflection and occasional laughter. (Roger Shattuck, author of The Banquet Years )

A bravado performance of critical journalism...vivid, amusing, dismaying. (Robert Alter Newsday )

All persons serious about education should see it. (Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind )

A withering critique. (Jonathan Yardley Washington Post Book World )

Mr. Kimball names his enemies precisely...this book will breed fistfights. (The New York Times )

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee; Revised edition (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566631955
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566631952
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,815,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Martin Asiner on August 12, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
America's colleges and universities have always had their fair share of leftist radicals but as astounding as it may seem today, until the early 1960s the majority of college teachers tended toward the right or at the least managed to avoid the radicalism so thoroughly entrenched today. In TENURED RADICALS, Roger Kimball, himself a conservative critic of the arts, analyzes how and why this transformation has taken place. The villain he notes is that the very faculty who are charged with the education of our young have willingly and eagerly abandoned the search for truth by denying the very existence of absolutes like "truth" "justice" and "universality." Politics, in his opinion, has trumped an impartial quest for a firm and unwavering underpinning for Western culture.

This attack began, oddly enough, in Plato's day as Plato had the good sense to recognize the seductive appeal of rhetoric and could reject it in favor of elevating the reality behind that rhetoric over the rhetoric itself. Kimball notes that over the next two millenia most philosophers have succeeded in avoiding this pitfall--at least until this century when Jacques Derrida began to unravel the meaning of meaning by imputing to it a foundation of relativism that says in essence that human beings can never "know" anything for certain because of unvoidable biases, prejudices, and ideologies. Kimball takes an interesting tack by structuring much of his book in the form of academic conferences in which he attends and by using his trusty tape recorder captures the very words and intonations of speakers who rail against the very jobs that pay them such lofty paychecks. Kimball is a very witty and funny writer. As these academic deans speak their deconstructionist jargon, Kimball will then translate into plain English.
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I remember asking Jay Nordlinger a couple of years ago why Roger Kimball didn't get swept up by a university due to his obvious brilliance, and Jay told me that he would gain no possible advantage from working at one (even if they would hire him) which is probably true as his brand of scholarship is seldom found in the academy today. Today I reread the absolutely stunning and marvelous Tenured Radicals and was remiss not to have reviewed it back in 2002. It remains a riveting and educational narrative even though over 15 years have passed since it was first published. The open-minded should be prepared though because this is a very ugly tale. Mr. Kimball goes around to various university speaking events and reports back to us not only about what has been said but also about the climate around the symposiums.

Unfortunately, the reason that this book is not as well-remembered and quoted as it should be is due to its being a complete underestimation of the political corruption endemic to our universities today. In other words, what he described is rather mild as 1990 was a dream for libertarians as opposed to the horror show that we would find on campus in 2007. David Horowitz estimated that 10% of the professorate was left-wing and activist but that too is probably an underestimate. I pity students graduating from high school today as the 80 grand they'll pay for a college education isn't worth ten bucks due to the amount in which truth will be replaced with propaganda.

At any rate, what's best about Tenured Radicals is Kimball's acerbic and rightly condescending wit. There are so many great asides here the tone will keep you giggling throughout.
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Roger Kimball's work is a refreshing look at the sad state of the Humanities today. Is the book rather one-sided in its views on the 'culture wars'? Yes, but then again one will not get much vigorous debate on the subject in most Humanities departments today-and this is exactly Mr. Kimball's point. Even putting aside the complete contempt for truth these scholars show, if this neglect and subversion of Humanities departments were simply an academic affair, perhaps Mr. Kimball would sound histrionic, but he clearly identifies the real victims-the students. Indeed, the book comes off at points almost conspiratorial, as Mr. Kimball implies that the failed radical fight these scholars fought while students is now being played out for the hearts and minds of contemporary students. Sadly, that argument is not without some merit. The adolescent postures of these scholars that are lauded as arguments by the so-called 'cultural Left' make amusing, if at times frustrating reading for those accustomed to the naive belief that the universities existed for higher learning in pursuit of such feeble contemporary notions such as truth. Mr. Kimball lances the proponents with their own words and ideas, not their backgrounds or politics, something his opponents should take note of.
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When I read the first edition some years ago, when I was in college myself, I wanted to stand up and cheer. This book does an excellent job of exposing how the study of humanities has ceased to be an academic discipline, and more of an exercise in political posturing in Lit. and humanities departments across the nation. This book is also a wickedly funny skewering of all those in higher ed. who perceive their mission to be the indoctrination, rather than education, of today's college students. I see (sadly) that in the eight years since the publication of the 1'st edition, things have only gotten worse....
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