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A compelling defense of liberalism on campus and off.
At least since the publication of Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, higher education in the United States has been described as an institution in crisis, infected by liberal bias, hemmed in by political correctness, and undermined by an erosion of standards. This portrait has been accepted by millions of people outside academe—and a surprising number of college professors and students as well. But is it accurate?
What's Liberal about the Liberal Arts? offers a definitive rebuttal to conservative activists' most incendiary claims about American universities. In his analyses of faculty and students, critiques of ideologues left and right, and behind-the-scenes accounts of his own courses, Michael Bérubé makes a supple case for liberalism itself—for the cause of universal human rights, for free and unfettered inquiry, and for the classically liberal insistence that no single faction should attain dominance over all of a society's civil institutions.
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Michael Bérubé is a professor of literature at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Life As We Know It: A Father, a Family, and an Exceptional Child. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania.From Publishers Weekly:
Bérubé, a Penn State literature and cultural studies professor, doesn't deny that college campuses are "teeming with liberal faculty" in this circuitous retort to what he sees as an intensification over the last five years of conservative complaints about liberal "bias" in academe. Rather, the self-described progressive postmodernist (editor of The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies) vies with cultural conservatives for the position of "lonely voice in the wilderness": while conservatives feel embattled in the university setting, academics, Bérubé says, are beleaguered in the country at large, where the right wing dominates all three branches of government and much of mainstream media. Universities are necessarily liberal, Bérubé asserts, as independent intellectual inquiry is fundamental to democracy. Moreover, the authoritarian right's outraged objections to "anti-American" campuses are a testament to their "disbelief that liberalism still survives." Bérubé's points about the ascendance of the right will be well taken by progressives, but the level of meandering detail he devotes to his teaching experience and his own literature curriculum may feel less relevant to nonacademic readers
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