From Bloom to Kimball to D'Souza, attacks on the liberal arts have been one-sided, argues editor Edmundson, who here invites 12 academics to ``set the record straight.'' The resulting essays and interviews are dispiriting in a ratio of about two to one. Philosopher Richard Rorty does a semiquixotic job of arguing that the absence of philosophic absolutes doesn't necessitate the end of social coherence (``Wild Orchids and Trotsky''), while Edward Said (``Expanding Humanism'') speaks out with high clarity against intellectual repression via religious zealotry. Harold Bloom, too (``Authority and Originality''), is passionate and crystalline in distinguishing between the literary and the political, as is William Kerrigan, who argues in ``The Falls of Academe'' that deconstructionism and other recent literary ``theory'' is not only ``derivative'' but is ``a prescription for mediocrity''; while Richard Poirier shows brilliantly that pragmatic skepticism comes from Emerson in a richly ironic form that makes Paul de Man look feeble and that long predates him. For the rest, however, the case seems dim for renewed confidence in academia. In ``My Kinsman, T. S. Eliot,'' Frank Lentricchia maunders through the subject of ethnic identity, revealing that he has nothing to say—although his piece is a sonnet of tightness next to the protoplasmic amorphousness of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's ``Queer and Now.'' Judith Frank discusses Defoe next to prefab ``issues'' (``In the Waiting Room: Canons, Communities, `Political Correctness' ''); Nancy K. Miller skims the surface of a history of feminism; and Michael Berube, young follower of literary ``theory,'' reveals himself as soaringly jejune. Whether language or ideas are the more penurious here is often arguable, as in Houston A. Baker's case for rap music as the new poetry: ``If today's critic wishes to assume the futurity of the heterogeneous artist and be adequately predictive, then he or she must understand the rap artist as critic and stop chilling with respect to alterity.'' After a few high, clear notes, a swoop to despond.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 1993

ISBN: 0-14-017078-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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American schools at every level, from kindergarten to postgraduate programs, have substituted ideological indoctrination for education, charges conservative think-tanker Sowell (Senior Fellow/Hoover Institution; Preferential Polices, 1990, etc.) in this aggressive attack on the contemporary educational establishment. Sowell's quarrel with "values clarification" programs (like sex education, death-sensitizing, and antiwar "brainwashing") isn't that he disagrees with their positions but, rather, that they divert time and resources from the kind of training in intellectual analysis that makes students capable of reasoning for themselves. Contending that the values clarification programs inspired by his archvillain, psychotherapist Carl Rogers, actually inculcate values confusion, Sowell argues that the universal demand for relevance and sensitivity to the whole student has led public schools to abdicate their responsibility to such educational ideals as experience and maturity. On the subject of higher education, Sowell moves to more familiar ground, ascribing the declining quality of classroom instruction to the insatiable appetite of tangentially related research budgets and bloated athletic programs (to which an entire chapter, largely irrelevant to the book's broader argument, is devoted). The evidence offered for these propositions isn't likely to change many minds, since it's so inveterately anecdotal (for example, a call for more stringent curriculum requirements is bolstered by the news that Brooke Shields graduated from Princeton without taking any courses in economics, math, biology, chemistry, history, sociology, or government) and injudiciously applied (Sowell's dismissal of student evaluations as responsible data in judging a professor's classroom performance immediately follows his use of comments from student evaluations to document the general inadequacy of college teaching). All in all, the details of Sowell's indictment—that not only can't Johnny think, but "Johnny doesn't know what thinking is"—are more entertaining than persuasive or new.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-02-930330-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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