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In the early 1990s, Classics professor Mary Lefkowitz discovered that one of her faculty colleagues at Wellesley College was teaching his students that Greek culture had been stolen from Africa and that Jews were responsible for the slave trade. This book tells the disturbing story of what happened when she spoke out.
Lefkowitz quickly learned that to investigate the origin and meaning of myths composed by people who have for centuries been dead and buried is one thing, but it is quite another to critique myths that living people take very seriously. She also found that many in academia were reluctant to challenge the fashionable idea that truth is merely a form of opinion. For her insistent defense of obvious truths about the Greeks and the Jews, Lefkowitz was embroiled in turmoil for a decade. She faced institutional indifference, angry colleagues, reverse racism, anti-Semitism, and even a lawsuit intended to silence her.
In History Lesson Lefkowitz describes what it was like to experience directly the power of both postmodernism and compensatory politics. She offers personal insights into important issues of academic values and political correctness, and she suggests practical solutions for the divisive and painful problems that arise when a political agenda takes precedence over objective scholarship. Her forthright tale uncovers surprising features in the landscape of higher education and an unexpected need for courage from those who venture there.
"[Lefkowitz''s] account asks—and answers—provocative questions about the limits of [academic] freedom and about what scholars owe to their disciplines, their students and their colleagues."—Amanda Heller, Boston Sunday Globe
— Amanda Heller
"Lefkowitz''s painful struggle and ultimate victory are edifying—and, perhaps, a hopeful sign for higher education."—Robert Whitcomb, The Weekly Standard
— Robert Whitcomb
"[Mary Lefkowitz] has advanced the intellectual case against Afrocentrism before, in Not Out of Africa; here she takes a more personal approach, at one point mentioning the strain of the controversy as she battled breast cancer."—John Leo, Wall Street Journal
— John Leo
"[Lefkowitz] is a courageous woman who deserves commendation for instructing us that academic freedom is not a license to tell lies in the classroom."—Morton I. Teicher, National Jewish Post & Opinion
— Morton I. Teicher
"This short but important book is the personal account of an acrid controversy that erupted at Wellesley College during the culture wars of the early and mid-1990s. . . . [Lefkowitz] recounts her ''cautionary tale'' in lucid and riveting detail."—Leo Goldberger, Moment Magazine
— Leo Goldberger
"A clear-eyed look at the perils—and promise—of contemporary academic life."—Booklist
"[Lefkowitz''] forthright tale uncovers surprising features in the landscape of higher education and an unexpected need for courage from those who venture there."—Greek America Magazine