The Opening of the American Mind
ByÂ Lawrence W. Levine
My rating:Â 4 of 5 stars
I actually liked this book more than I thought although I am left with many questions. It was written in the mid â€™90s in response to the spate of books attacking developments in the university world, Allan Bloomâ€™s The Closing of the American Mind foremost among these and the obvious inspiration of the title. Truth is, this is a far more readable argument than Bloomâ€™s.
Levine contends that in fact the â€œcanonâ€ of subjects and texts taught in the university has continued to change throughout the history of universities. At one time, the esteemed texts of English literature, philosophy, and history were in fact eschewed for Greek and Latin literature. The inauguration of â€œWestern Civâ€ courses only occurred after World War 1.
Furthermore, he argues that the rise of gender, cultural, social and ethnic studies, including the impact of these studies on his own field of history is not a move to cultural relativism or political correctness. Rather, these recognize both the intellectually biased accounts of the past that marginalize many Americans who are not political leaders, or male, or white. We cannot understand the truth of our nationâ€™s history and cultural makeup without listening to the full spectrum of those who contribute to â€œthis American life.â€ So as the makeup of our country continues to change, so must the curriculum and intellectual life of the university, as it always has.