Egginton provides a helpful diagnosis of why today’s college students are divided. Unfortunately, the author’s own sowing of...

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THE SPLINTERING OF THE AMERICAN MIND

IDENTITY POLITICS, INEQUALITY, AND COMMUNITY ON TODAY’S COLLEGE CAMPUSES

A cri de couer regarding the modern university.

In The Closing of the American Mind (1987), philosopher Allan Bloom criticized the nation’s colleges and universities for fostering the notion of moral relativism instead of critical thinking and the pursuit of truth. More than 30 years later, Egginton (Humanities/Johns Hopkins Univ.; The Man Who Invented Fiction: How Cervantes Ushered in the Modern World, 2016, etc.) delivers a sequel of sorts, arguing that “we are in danger of losing our civic culture.” The flourishing of identity politics on campuses, while rightly providing much-needed benefits to marginalized groups, has led to a balkanization of our students at the expense of any sense of community. The roots of this problem can be traced to rises in individualism and inequality and a decline in civic discourse that have fractured society as a whole. The proper remedy, writes the author, is a return to a true liberal arts education, accessible to all and rooted in the ideas of equality and opportunity. No one observing the nation’s campuses in recent years would disagree with Egginton’s main diagnosis: Our students are splintering and refusing to listen to each other. Yet the author makes some divisive statements himself—e.g., efforts to repeal the estate tax are “un-American,” and modern-day cultural conservatives are comparable to members of “whites only” country clubs of yore—and his points often lack context or are misleading. Several times, he cites the dubious statistic that one in four or five college women are sexually assaulted during their time at university; the author admits that “the statistic has been widely debated and there may in fact be no way of knowing the actual numbers.” His assertion that a liberal arts education is “availably only to the wealthiest few” is an exaggeration, as evidenced by need-based scholarships, the G.I. bill, and other programs.

Egginton provides a helpful diagnosis of why today’s college students are divided. Unfortunately, the author’s own sowing of discord will do little to unite them.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63557-133-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

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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