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

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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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 19, 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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