Here is a book that is easier to praise and to agree with than to review and to criticize. Its main theme is simple, right, and rather mysteriously neglected on all sides: the “culture wars” have been an enormous diversion from the serious work of improving American education at all levels. All parties, says Jacoby, have been fiddling while Rome burns:
Conservatives, liberals, and radicals argue over which books should be taught in schools; meanwhile few books are read, and a liberal education shatters under the weight of commercialism. Faculty and students dispute which words violate the rights of which groups; meanwhile society turns increasingly violent. Psychologists preach the virtues of a healthy self-esteem; meanwhile the world of the self—education and jobs—collapses. Citizens wrangle over multiculturalism, arguing how, when, and if diverse cultures should be studied; meanwhile the irresistible power of advertising and television converts m...
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