Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bloomin Bloom

We discussed The Closing of the American Mind today, and I have little to add to our in-class discussion except a continued sense of outrage and alarm. How is it that Bloom gets away with making such outrageous (and, at times, overtly dishonest) claims about the state of American culture, Affirmative Action, feminism, rock-n-roll, race relations, etc. and never feels compelled to cite a study, reference statistics, or show an awareness of resaearch? He makes rabid generalizations and refuses to back up his claims with any evidence beyond personal opinion. And yet millions of people bought and believe his book. His rabble would never withstand the rigors of academia, the very institution he attacks. Has he never heard the adage that one must use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house? If he is going to demonstrate how hollow and soulless and uneducated current intellectuals are, then why doesn't he demonstrate some intellectual acumen, some balanced and ethical treatment of sources aside from his personal anger, some respect for his readers? I am more disheartened by the lack of rigor in his book than the claims he makes. His claims are unjustified, which he apparently recognizes since he, again, offers no evidence beyond personal opinion. But the model he presents of an academic is appalling. There's no respect for the profession or for scholars who scrupulously study the very issues he offhandedly blames on the opening of the university system to women and minorities (especially African Americans). It's really a very sexist and racist book, and shockingly careless with how it treats issues of race, the compexities of identity politics, and systems of privilege. Smugly reductive, mystifyingly self-righteous. And riddled with a language of fear--fear of change, of loss of control, of power and privilege. It's also painfully nostalgic, but for what I'm not entirely sure. For an era when all university students were versed in the Judeo-Christian tradition? For an era when truth was clearly discernible, when there were answrs? Did this time ever exist?

1 comment:

Erin Webster Garrett said...

Looking over my rant from yesterday, I can't help but notice how personally I seem to feel Bloom's attack. If he hasn't any truth to his claims, why my strong reaction? Why my defensiveness? I think it's because as an academic and a life long book worm, I've felt this attack before, been told too many times that I think too much, that I read too much into things. And I simply don't believe that seeing beyond the surface details, that searching for meaning in my daily life is a trivial or pointless pursuit. I think Bloom would agree that the search for truth enrichens the soul. Where we disagree seems to be in his hierarchic dismissal of the very places where I search for meaning and truth. Perhaps one has to be othered in order to see the value of looking at the other and at the issues informing value judgements, hierarchy constructions, canon formations, etc. Or, perhaps Bloom is feeling himself othered for the first time, and that is what has elicited his book, his scramble to mainitain power and privilege. Such seems to be the conclusion of Lawrence Levine, anyway, whose book I so far find enormously reassuring. The incessant shots over the bow of academia are collectively answered by him in a format I can respect and admire. He doesn't bog down the reader with irrelevant personal opinion. He does document his evidence scrupulously. Over emotionalism is the most popular weapon of choice in our fear-based culture, so it's enormously reassuring to have a steady, calm and informed voice remind us that the attack on intelectualism is not new. And the world, so far, hasn't ended.