Beyond Cheering and Bashing: New Perspectives on the Closing of the American Mind

Beyond Cheering and Bashing: New Perspectives on the Closing of the American Mind

Beyond Cheering and Bashing: New Perspectives on the Closing of the American Mind

Beyond Cheering and Bashing: New Perspectives on the Closing of the American Mind

Synopsis

The debate over the central issue confronted in The Closing of the American Mind -the role of the university and the liberal arts in the United States-has become increasingly urgent and contentious. The goal of this collection of essays is to see what we can learn about the dilemmas confronting American culture through consideration of both The Closing of the American Mind and the debate it aroused.

Excerpt

The Closing of the American Mind may no longer be on the bestseller lists, but the debate over the central issue confronted in Closing—the role of the university and the liberal arts in the United States—has become increasingly urgent and contentious. Now that the uproar over the work itself has died down, it is possible to consider Allan Bloom's contribution to the overall debate from a broader perspective. Accordingly, the goal of this collection is not to record another series of yeas and nays on Bloom, but rather to consider what one may learn about the dilemmas confronting American culture through a consideration of both The Closing of the American Mind and the debate it has aroused. Our contributors differ among themselves as to the validity of both the diagnoses and the solutions Bloom offers, yet they refuse to engage in "Bloom-bashing" or hero-worship. (The goal of this volume is to place the debate over Closing within a larger context than a book review format allows.)

We will not summarize the views of the individual essays here, nor count up the "pro" or "anti" contributions. We will, instead, point out some of the connections between one essay that does not deal directly with The Closing of the American Mind (Christopher Lasch's "The Great Experiment: Where Did It Go Wrong?") and the issues raised by Closing. Lasch's study provides the sort of historical perspective that has rarely informed the controversy over Bloom. If, as Christopher Lasch argues, American public education is in large part the result of generations of reformers, of whom Horace Mann was one of the first and most influential, the philosophy of reform must be held at least partially responsible for "the wreckage of the school system in America" (1). Bloom's ideas, then, cannot be dismissed simply because they contradict contemporary versions of the "liberal humanitarianism" (8) professed by Horace Mann and the other reformers.

Bloom's book repays study as a work of literature. The Closing of the American Mind may not be a novel, as Robert Wolff suggested with malice aforethought, but the book can be read as a "confession," governed, in Northrop Frye's words, "by a creative, and therefore fictional, impulse to select only those events and experiences in the writer's life that go to build up an integrated pattern" (307). To consider Closing as literature need not be an exercise in deconstruction nor a polite way of avoiding the book's ideas. The emotional impact of Closing on both admirers and bashers does suggest that the book is more than the sum of its opinions; it is, perhaps, a "confession," whose main character evokes an intensity of response beyond the protagonists of most novels. It may be, indeed, that an understanding of both the narrator of Closing as a dramatic voice, and the resonance of that voice in our society, may be best . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.