Pollyanna Goes to College

Pollyanna Goes to College

The Opening of the American Mind:
Canons, Culture, and History
by Lawrence W. Levine.
Beacon Press, 1996. 212 pp. $20.00.

Almost ten years ago the collected complaints of a conservative University of Chicago professor became an unexpected bestseller. Allan Bloom, who had been known mainly as a translator of Plato, published a broad indictment of the character and “soul” of American higher education. The subtitle of The Closing of the American Mind ran How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students. To the disbelief of many liberals and leftists, Bloom’s volume commanded inordinate attention; and worse, it was followed by a series of widely discussed kindred books like Tenured Radicals, Illiberal Education, Killing the Spirit, Dictatorship of Virtue, and The Disuniting of America. These tracts decried the incoherence of higher education: its politicization, political correctness, relativism, and faddishness.

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