Dogmatic Wisdom: How the Culture Wars Divert Education and Distract America

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Doubleday Religious Publishing Group, 1994 - Education - 235 pages
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Since the late 1980s few issues have sparked more heated debate than the state of American education and the definition of its cultural underpinnings. Indeed, interest in the controversy has made books ranging from The Closing of the American Mind and Illiberal Education to The Culture of Complaint into national best-sellers. Yet, in the torrent of words about political correctness, multiculturalism, relativism, speech codes, the Western canon, and campus racism, are we missing the fundamentals? In Dogmatic Wisdom noted critic and intellectual historian Russell Jacoby charges that the education and culture wars have misled America, diverting public attention from the real ailments that beset education and society. With rare historical insight, Jacoby chronicles how the corrosion of education has sent academics and social critics scrambling for answers. But in the rush they lose sight of basic issues. Conservatives protest that education has lost its mind. Radicals respond that it is better than ever. Commentary stays within the narrow boundaries of curricula, books, and speech. Dogmatists of the right and left fixate on a violent vocabulary but forget a violent world; discuss a few books taught at a few institutions but ignore the state of liberal learning at most schools; and fight for blacks and Latinos in textbooks but remain silent about their fate in society. Much more than a reaction to "political correctness", Dogmatic Wisdom is a wide-ranging polemic, offering vital lessons drawn from the history of educational reform, language revision, and cultural pluralism. Upbraiding conservatives for hypocrisy, academic radicals for cynicism, and liberals for naivete, Jacoby recalls theessential realities of teaching and learning that ideologues of all stripes ignore - and charts an indispensable path through the cultural crises of our time.

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About the author (1994)

Russell Jacoby is the author of seven books including "The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe." He is the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, an Andrew Mellon fellowship, a Lehrman fellowship and an NEH grant and has published articles and reviews in "American Historical Review", Grand Street, "Nation", "Los Angeles Times", "London Review of Books", The "New York Times", "Harper's" and elsewhere. He teaches history at UCLA.

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