The Opening of the American Mind


Publicly greeted as the definitive answer to recent attacks on the university, Lawrence W. Levine's book is a brilliantly argued positive vision of American education and culture.

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Publicly greeted as the definitive answer to recent attacks on the university, Lawrence W. Levine's book is a brilliantly argued positive vision of American education and culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Elegant, passionate, and a pleasure to read, offering a welcome historical depth. —David Damrosch, The Washington Post Book World

"Here are grounds . . . for rejoicing. . . . [Levine] confronts the conservative critics of multiculturalism with the rigorous scholarship and lucid analysis usually absent in their own work." —Martin Duberman, The Nation

"Levine . . . knows more about the history of the American college curriculum than almost anyone who has assailed it, and it turns out to be a rollicking tale of partisan strife." —Amy Schwartz, The Washington Post

"Lawrence Levine, one of our era's most original historians, offers here an acute and sensitive analysis of the state of the American academy at the end of this century. . . . An excellent, readable, and redoubtable contribution to the debate over the culture wars." —Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"A forceful rebuttal of conservative critics who have dominated recent debate about higher education. . . . This book should be required reading for anyone interested in the culture wars." —Allan Winkler, Times Higher Education Supplement

"A book that has relevance for everyone. . . . You never feel like you're in the hands of a sloganeer or a person who is locked up in some ivory tower without a connection to contemporary life, or to your life." —Ingrid Sischy, Interview

"Raises the entire debate about American education to the level of dignity and honor it deserves. A wise and reasoned book. I hope it reaches a huge audience." —Jonathan Kozol, author of Savage Inequalities

Kirkus Reviews
MacArthur Awardwinning historian Levine (Univ. of Calif., Berkeley; Black Culture and Black Consciousness, 1977, etc.) takes on the New Right in the culture wars.

The principle problem with conservative attack on the academy, Levine argues in his new book, is that it is ahistorical, indeed, downright ignorant of the history of higher education in the US. "The best response to critics of the modern American university is the history of the university itself," he says, and he proceeds to trace that history. Curriculum changes came not in response to a leftist cabal, he argues, but in response to larger social pressures. In fact, he notes, 19th-century colleges offered virtually nothing in the way of science, modern language, or history courses, focusing almost exclusively on "classics" courses that generally consisted more of grammar than content analysis. The current curriculum fights are merely extensions of debates on opening the curriculum that occurred at the end of the last century; Levine highlights the battle between Harvard's Charles Eliot and Princeton's James McCosh as the most prominent example. He demonstrates the ways in which the two world wars affected the rise and decline of Western Civ core curricula, and how the original literary canon offered in America's great universities excluded not only multicultural literatures but American literature itself. Indeed, as late as the 1920s, specializing in American literature was "professional suicide" for academicians. Levine is similarly effective in tracing the place of immigrants in American society and the changing understanding of how their cultures interact with the larger American one. Ultimately, he argues convincingly, the real fear of the neoconservatives is not that the university is too closed, but that it is too open.

An intelligently argued volume that would be more effective if it were longer and more detailed. Still, an excellent starting point for debunking some of the new catechisms of the anti- intellectual intellectuals.

From Barnes & Noble
A preeminent historian provides a powerful counterpoint to the apocalyptic Jeremiahs who are spreading paranoia across the nation by loudly denouncing immigration for disuniting America and prophetizing the downfall of the university. Levine's reasoned exploration of where our multicultural heritage is headed and what it takes to get there gives us a long-range perspective of our constantly transforming society--and helps us understand what it means to be American.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807031193
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 8/14/1997
  • Pages: 212
  • Sales rank: 824,253
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence W. Levine is professor of history at George Mason University and Margaret Byrne Professor of History emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. His studies of American culture include Black Culture and Black Consciousness and High-Brow/Low-Brow.

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