The Closing of the American Mind

The Closing of the American Mind

How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students

Paperback - 1987
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The Closing of the American Mind, a publishing phenomenon in hardcover, is now a paperback literary event. In this acclaimed number one national best-seller, one of our country's most distinguished political philosophers argues that the social/political crisis of 20th-century America is really an intellectual crisis. Allan Bloom's sweeping analysis is essential to understanding America today. It has fired the imagination of a public ripe for change. Book jacket.
Publisher: New York ; Toronto ; Simon & Schuster, c1987.
ISBN: 9780671479909
Characteristics: 392 pages ;,25 cm.


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May 23, 2019

"Lack of education simply results in students' seeking for enlightenment wherever it is readily available, without being able to distinguish between the sublime and trash, insight and propaganda."
In 1987, the University of Chicago professor and Plato scholar Allan Bloom published "The Closing of the American Mind," which became an improbable best-seller and a key salvo in the escalating culture wars. Somewhat hysterically subtitled "How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students," the book is a shotgun blast (loud, inaccurate) at not just the problems in education (like many conservatives, it all begain in the 60s), but in our culture: relativism, feminism, lack of reading, the assault on the Western canon, the weakening of family, multiculturalism. . .For someone who is an intellectual and mentions heavy-hitters like Nietzsche and Rousseau, this is a poorly argued book. Granted, I disagree with almost everything he has to say (He lost me when he wrote "Orientals."), but I was at least expecting a coherent argument. It's yet another "everything is wrong" narrative from someone who seemingly has no grasp of any other point of view, and worse, doesn't seem at all interested in one. I suppose if you consider Plato's "Republic" the foundation of Western literature and civilization, it's all going to be downhill. It is fascinating to read as a relic of the 80s culture wars and as an insight into conservative thought. More recent books on the problems in education and culture include "The Coddling of the American Mind" and "Excellent Sheep."
This is the 25th anniversary edition with a new afterword and an introduction by Saul Bellow, who was a friend of Bloom's and wrote a lightly fictionalized version of him in "Ravelstein."

Jul 31, 2011

Writing in 1987, university professor Allan Bloom writes about a fundamental shift in the mindset of young adults over the course of his teaching career. Whereas decades earlier they would come to the university with a sense of expectation that they would actually learn truths about the big questions, that becoming wise was a virtue, a lofty goal that was nonetheless attainable, Bloom observes that the more recent students have lost that sense of wonder, that desire to become a whole human being. Instead, it seems that they come in with greatly lowered expectations and passion for learning.

The problem, according to Bloom, isn't so much the embrace of relativism with its denial of objective truth, but the unthinking dogmatism with which it is held. A large part of the blame goes to the universities themselves, whose humanities departments have embraced this way of thinking themselves.

This is a very difficult book, but if the reader is willing to invest the time and effort, the reward is a big-picture view of the history of thought, beginning with Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau, and culminating in Nietzsche, that makes sense of the radical change in the intellectual climate.

Bloom not only offers a thorough diagnosis, but also some ideas which could lead to the restoration of liberal education.

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