Book Reviews -- beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education by Gerald Graff

By Clark, James Andrew | National Forum, Winter 1994 | Go to article overview

Book Reviews -- beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education by Gerald Graff


Clark, James Andrew, National Forum


GERALD GRAFF. Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education. New York: Norton, 1992. 214 pages. $19.95.

A few years ago, Gerald Graff formulated in a concise slogan his prescription for greater coherence in our college and university curricula: Teach the Conflicts! Since then, he has offered his idea in places where professors of English usually publish their work--scholarly journals and the organs of professional societies--and, decidedly, in places where such subjects usually do not appear, such as "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Now Graff's slogan stands at the center of a fully developed argument in Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education. It is one of the best books on the by now very crowded shelf marked "Rx for the University (Recent)."

In the first instance, the exhortation to "teach the conflicts" was directed to teachers of literature, who know something about the subject of conflict and whose guild history is shrewdly traced in Graff's previous work, Professing Literature. As the earlier book makes plain, that history has been dominated for some time by the proliferation of critical theories, new and relatively systematic, committed, and coherent vocabularies for the discussion of literary texts and no less for the choice of texts to discuss. For undergraduate students, this multiplication of competing texts and systems has seldom meant an enriched intellectual experience, however. Instead, Graff argues, as many others have done, it has too often meant serial incoherence. Put more vividly, it has meant semiotics at 9 o'clock, Great Books at 10, followed by feminism at 11 and, let us say, deconstruction at high noon. The brightest students learned to mimic the vocabulary of the hour or the semester, but even they, Graff argues, are impoverished not by their teachers' disagreements but by a curriculum that keeps those disagreements unfocused, in the background, out of the curriculum.

What is to be done? On this question the books about higher education divide as spectacularly as the literary theorists themselves. Each new book brings a different answer, but there are three basic approaches. One very large group, represented by Charles Sykes's Prof Scam, Roger Kimball's Tenured Radicals, or Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal-Education, calls essentially for reform of the professors and political resistance to the tendencies of that class. Another group, including Allen Bloom's famous Closing of the American Mind and once representing the "official" position of the National Endowment for the Humanities, calls for a return to "just reading" the books we used to call the classics, seeking, in the phrase of Secretary William J. Bennett's phrase, "to reclaim a legacy. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Book Reviews -- beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education by Gerald Graff
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.