11
Allan Bloom's Critique of
American Education
A Noble Failure

The phenomenal intellectual and commercial success of Allan Bloom The Closing of the American Mind cannot be explained by the philosophical sophistication or political maturity of the American public. What it signifies is the widespread recognition that something is profoundly wrong with the American educational system. There is little agreement on what is wrong and why. But the dissatisfaction is periodically fed by government and foundation reports that are headlined in the press and become the subject of television programs. Despite increases in expenditures, the elementary schools seem unable to raise the level of functional literacy of those who complete their studies. Secondary education, especially in large metropolitan centers, is afflicted by increasing violence, drug addiction, and sexual promiscuity that contribute to a high dropout rate. Not only is there universal access to some form of higher--more accurately, tertiary--education but there is almost universal acceptance (except at Ivy League and a handful of other colleges), grade inflation, and declining standards, so that remedial courses in English and mathematics often make up a considerable portion of the curriculum for large numbers. It is unsafe to assume that those on whom degrees are bestowed possess the elements of what constituted a liberal arts education a generation or two ago. Whatever the specific reasons for the confusions and problems of the school system of the country--and the picture, granted, is certainly varied--every large section of the population has a grievance with some aspect of its operation.

____________________
Originally published as "The Closing of the American Mind: An Intellectual Best-Seller Revisited," The American Scholar, 58, no. 1 ( Winter 1988-89):123-35. Copyright © 1988 by the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

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