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The Closing of the American Mind

(Books, History, Nonfiction) Permanent link

This book is not only important because it is a penetrating critique of higher education in America, but because, when it was published in 1988, many people read it; it's a historical phenomenon; whether positive or negative, it struck a cord.

With its ambiguity, lack of clear argumentation, interesting and constant digressions, and deepness of thought, I sincerely struggled and disagreed, and agreed, and hated, and loved this book. Which makes me think: isn't that the beauty of a book?--that we can agree and disagree, understand and misunderstand, throw away and keep some or all of its' parts?

Bloom basically thinks that the American university, under the influence of some German thinkers (Nietzsche, Freud), has lost its' philosophical grounding, and has reduced itself to thinking there is no truth, that morals are relative, and so on. And from the rubble of this Nihilism emerges a student population that doesn't see the point of education, doesn't think seriously, and doesn't discuss things like what it means to live a good life, or be a good human, or have a good government. In a word, Bloom thinks the philosophers have left the building.

What I truly took away from this roller-coaster discussion--of ancient philosophy, the Founding Fathers, the sixties, and what it all has to do with the university--is that, somewhere along the way, we may have lost the sense that human knowledge is a unified whole (or even the sense that there is such a thing called knowledge!). We have forgotten that the great thinkers of our past--Kepler, Newton, Einstein, Jefferson, Locke--all considered there to be branches of knowledge that fit together in a coherent and meaningful way; they were part of a grand project, which is why they knew so much about other areas of knowledge. Have our college students lost this sense of unity?


The Closing of the American Mind

Posted by Matt Smith at 03/08/2010 12:36:46 PM