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How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy

1665 words - 7 pages

The Closing of the American Mind 
Allan Bloom



“Educate then at any rate; for the age of implicit self sacrifice and instinctive virtue is flitting away from us, and the time is fast approaching when freedom and public peace, and social order itself will not be able to exist without education”.

This was the advice that Alexis d' Tocqueville was giving to the American society at the beginning of the 19 century. When reading through his book “Democracy in America “it is difficult not to see parallels between American society in the 1800′s and the America of today. Even though he does not make clear reference to public ...view middle of the document...

He argued that the commercial pursuits have become more highly valued than the philosophical quest for truth. His idea is a direct challenge to the aims and practices off the business management programs, that have become so popular. These “progressive” methods have actually diminished the importance of knowledge itself, about traditional fields of study such as history, art, literature, language.
Bloom criticize explicitly this progressive method, considering that this had diminished the importance of knowledge itself : “Similarly Dewey's pragmatism—the method of science especially natural limits—saw the past as radically imperfect and regarded our history as irrelevant or as a hindrance to rational analysis of our as the method of democracy, individual growth without limits, present”.[2]
Another paradoxical aspect of Bloom's book is that he deals with two forms of openness in explaining how democracy has failed democracy.. He goes on to show how what is called openness in the first form actually amounts to a "closing of the mind". First form is openness of indifference which stunts students' desire for self-discovery by making all endeavors of equal valu, leads to the abandonment of their requirements to take languages and study philosophy of science. He emphasize the fact that this kind of openness activates their amour-propre — self-love or esteem based on others' opinions and closes them to doubt about so many things impeding progress: “ Actually openness results in American conformism - out there in the rest of the world is a drab diversity that teaches only that values are relative, whereas here we can create all the life-styles we want. Our openness means we do not need others. Thus what is advertised as a great opening is a great closing. No longer is there a hope that there are great wise men in other places and times who can reveal the truth about life — except for the few remaining young people who look for a quick fix from a guru. . . . None of this concerns those who promote the new curriculum[3].
The second form openness to the quest for knowledge and certitude  encourages students to want to know what things from history and culture are good for them, what will make them happy.
Activates their amour-soi - natural and healthy self-love or esteem arising from within oneself independent of the opinions of others.
Bloom sees that one form of openness, relativism or amour-propre, really amounts to a "closing of the American mind". He suggests that one way of re-invigorating the college curriculum is by adding back a study of the Great Books and classical authors whose books fell into disuse during the 1960's. With this kind of refocusing of educational resources and re-direction of college students he expect that students will come to understand that before one can really experience the thrill of liberation, one has to have something to really believe in. That experience of really believing can come whenever a student...

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