Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education

Overview

"Graff offers a highly readable and down-to-earth perspective on some of the most ballyhooed issues in higher education today. . . . By encouraging us to argue together, he may yet help us to reason together."—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Higher education should by a battleground of ideas: the real problem, Gerald Graff says, is that students are not getting more out of the battle. In this lively book, Graff argues that the "culture wars" now being fought over multiculturalism and political correctness are actually a ...
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Overview

"Graff offers a highly readable and down-to-earth perspective on some of the most ballyhooed issues in higher education today. . . . By encouraging us to argue together, he may yet help us to reason together."—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Higher education should by a battleground of ideas: the real problem, Gerald Graff says, is that students are not getting more out of the battle. In this lively book, Graff argues that the "culture wars" now being fought over multiculturalism and political correctness are actually a sign of the intellectual vitality of American education—but they need to be used creatively, made part of the educational process itself.

By studying the debate over multiculturalism and the curriculum, teachers, administrators, and students alike can actually make good use of the crisis to tackle real problems, such as academic incoherence and student apathy. Excerpted in Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Editorial Reviews

Christian Science Monitor
“Engaging, hopeful, and persuasive.”
Chicago Tribune
“Effectively explodes a whole corpus of myths that have become the conventional media wisdom about the 'crisis' in education.”
New York Times Book Review
“Everyone to whom universities matter should read Beyond the Culture Wars. . . . There could be no more tactful and well-informed guide than Mr. Graff to the actualities of university life. . . . A passionate tribute to the extraordinary difficulty and worth of learning, particularly in a climate of competing demands.”— Nina Auerbach
Nina Auerbach - New York Times Book Review
“Everyone to whom universities matter should read Beyond the Culture Wars. . . . There could be no more tactful and well-informed guide than Mr. Graff to the actualities of university life. . . . A passionate tribute to the extraordinary difficulty and worth of learning, particularly in a climate of competing demands.”
Robert Bellah
“Graff provides a useful analysis of the widespread incoherence in university education today, and even more importantly, some practical proposals for overcoming it. His idea of learning communities, based not on artificial consensus but on engaged argument, is most promising.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Decrying conservatives who claim higher education offers a choice between culture and barbarism, University of Chicago English professor Graff argues eloquently for a curriculum that includes political debates and multicultural texts. Though he brushes away charges of left-wing McCarthyism too easily, he skewers critic Dinesh D'Souza's claim that dead white males are being expelled firom required courses. Graff suggests that conservatives' only strategy to deal with conflicting views is to deny their legitimacy, and he wisely notes that the term common culture is always evolving. Using evidence from his own teaching, Graff shows how incorporating literary criticism written by the African novelist Chinua Achebe helped revise his teaching of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. He suggests that the ideological conflicts that accompany the curricular problem are getting students to grapple with ideas. Observing that students often have teachers with conflicting beliefs and assumptions in different classes, Graff concludes by surveying current innovative attempts at curriculum integration; oddly, he doesn't mention his own university's Great Books program. Nov.
Library Journal
Graff English, Univ. of Chicago here addresses Allan Bloom The Closing of the American Mind , LJ 5/1/87, Dinesh D'Souza Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus , LJ 3/15/91, and other conservative critics of multiculturalism and political correctness in the schools. He believes that teaching about cultural conflicts is a sign of vitality and hope and that it contributes to the development of a common culture. He debunks what he considers to be the myth of the vanishing classics and argues that the ``course fetish'' and ``cult of the teacher'' exacerbate conflict. Graff instead touts his program for incorporating conflicting and variant ideas into the curriculum as the best insurance for a democratic society. This provocative and controversial book is an essential acquisition for balanced subject collections.-- Shirley L. Hopkinson, SLIS, San Jose State Univ., Cal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393311136
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/1993
  • Edition description: (1993)
  • Pages: 226
  • Sales rank: 975,211
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerald Graff, a professor of English and education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and 2008 president of the Modern Language Association of America, has had a major impact on teachers through such books as Professing Literature: An Institutional History, Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education, and Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind.
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Table of Contents

Preface
Ch. 1 Introduction: Conflict in America 3
Ch. 2 The Vanishing Classics and Other Myths: Two Episodes in the Culture War 16
Ch. 3 How to Save "Dover Beach" 37
Ch. 4 Hidden Meaning, or, Disliking Books at an Early Age 64
Ch. 5 "Life of the Mind Stuff" 86
Ch. 6 Other Voices, Other Rooms 105
Ch. 7 Burying the Battlefield, or, a Short History of How the Curriculum Became a Cafeteria Counter 125
Ch. 8 When Is Something "Political"? 144
Ch. 9 Turning Conflict into Community 171
Notes 197
Index 209
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