Battle of the Books: The Curriculum Debate in America

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9780393310702: Battle of the Books: The Curriculum Debate in America

We are what we read, contends James Atlas in this book about books, the story of America at an educational crossroads. Where once the giants of Western thought - Aristotle, Plato, Shakespeare and Milton - had pride of place, campuses are now divided: traditionalists are loath to abandon the great Western legacy, while the opponents see that canon as an elitist and inaccurate reflection of America's multicultural past. Atlas sheds light on both sides but firmly asserts that unless there is a set of core beliefs on which to build a consensus, there may soon be no clear idea of America - no common heritage, and no unified future.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Since the 1987 publication of Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind , the question of whether that body of works referred to as either the Classics or Great Books should be required reading for college students has divided academia. Journalist and biographer Atlas ( Delmore Schwartz ), who covered the debates as waged between traditionalists and multiculturalists for the New York Times , here revises an overview of curriculum controversies at major universities that he wrote for Whittle Communications' Larger Agenda series in 1990per BIP . He traveled to Duke, Harvard and Chicago to interview professors and examine course catalogues in search of "our educational mandate." He contributes a refreshing voice to a discussion dominated by academics, evincing a "spirit of curiosity" where dry polemics are the rule. But he offers little in the way of original thought, nor is his argument in favor of the "canon of Great Books" unified. Denser, more closely reasoned new books on the subject include David Bromwich's Politics by Other Means: Higher Education and Group Thinking (Forecasts, Aug. 10) and Beyond the Culture Wars by Gerald Graff (Forecasts, Sept. 7).
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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James Atlas
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