73.1 - "The Closing of the American Mind" at 20 by James...

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"The Closing of the American Mind" at 20 by James Piereson Editors' note: When The Closing of the Amer- ican Mind appeared in the spring 0/1987, it was cm immediate sensation—a source of jubilation and consternation in more or less equal measure. Allan Bloom's book spawned a small cataract of books about the university, some extending Bloom's criticisms, some taking issue with them. Unlike many polemical works, however. Closing nimbly transcended its moment. Love it or hate it or love it and hate it—Bloom's book was an unavoidable document: a refkaion that anyone concemed with the fate of American culture could accept or reject, but could not in good con- science ignore. We were therefore delighted to col- laborate with the Manhattan Institute's Center for the American University—itself a recent legacy of Bloom's pioneering work—in a con- ference examining The Closing of the Ameri- can Mind af 20. The conference, which tookplace in New York on October 3, began with some in- troductory remarks by John Leo, presentations by James Piereson, John Tomasi, Roger Kimball, Mark Steyn, and Heather Mac Donald, and additional commentary by James Miller, James Ceasar, John McWhorter, Robert P. George, Patrick Deneen, Brian Anderson, Peter Berk- owitz, David DesRosiers, and Gary Rosen. What follows are revised versions ofa selection of the presentations. James Piereson outlines the historical context of the book, Roger Kimball dis- cusses Bloom's attack on unanchored "openness," Mark Steyn extends Bloom's criticism of pop cul- ture, and Heather Mac Donald offers a critical analysis of Bloom's understanding of democracy and American civilization. it has now been twenty years since the late Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind, his bestselling broadside against the ideas and conceptions that ani- mate the contemporary university. The gen- eral theme of Bloom's book is encapsulated in the subtitle: Haw Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students. Bloom's thesis was striking precisely because it ran against the grain of conventional commentary on the academy. Following the upheavals of the 1960s, edu- cators prided themselves on the degree to which they had reformed the American uni- versity in the direction of democracy, equal- ity, and openness. They sought, as they said, to create an academic environment in which students might explore various ways of thinking and living in order to find their authentic selves. Those academic leaders were convinced that they had served democracy and enriched the educational ex- perience of students by all the reforms—cur- ricular and non-curricular—that they had engineered in response to the student revolts of that era. Now here was Bloom bluntly saying that they had actually done some- thing quite the reverse: in the quest for "openness" and democracy, the academics had closed off genuine diought and intellec- tual exploration, and in so doing had compromised the case for democratic in-
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course ENGL 1B at San Jose State University .

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73.1 - "The Closing of the American Mind" at 20 by James...

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