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.