Two Reviews of "The Closing of the American Mind"

This assignment entailed finding and summarizing two reviews of Bloom's "The Closing of the American Mind." 

 I was asked to find reviews that dealt with this text from a liberal and a conservative perspective.

In English 600, I was introduced to a variety of research tools including Google Scholar, the WPA-L archives, and a number of academic databases available through the HSU library.  These databases have been invaluable in my research for English 611.

Wright, Richard. Rev. of The Closing of the American Mind, by Allan Bloom. The Journal of Negro Education. 57.1 (Winter, 1988), pp 119-121. JSTOR Academic Database. 24 Sept. 2007.

     Wright reviews “The Closing” from a conservative perspective. He claims the book is worth reading, and that “it will make one angry, but not before it makes one think” (120). The reviewer describes the challenges universities faced in the 1960’s, and Bloom’s apt critique of those same educational institutions. While students called for colleges to “reveal [their] character and substance” schools could not rise to the challenge. Bloom’s argument is therefore worth noting, and whether or not one agrees with him, his ideas are well-thought-out, and grounded in strong, anecdotal and historical support.

Wolin, Richard. Rev. of The Closing of the American Mind, by Allan Bloom. Theory and Society. 18.2 (Mar. 1989), pp 273-282. JSTOR Academic Database. 24 Sept. 2007.

     The reviewer suggests Bloom generalizes the condition of American youth; his findings lack scientific evidence—although “Bloom freely admits the potentially unrepresentative nature of his subjects [who are] privileged college students” (274). Wolin accuses Bloom of pretentiousness, and cites Bloom’s “Aristotelian standards,” (274) which he expects American youth to live up to. 

    Wolin also chastises Bloom for his myopic view of culture: “Bloom’s entire argument falls victim to the fallacy of misplaced concreteness—his identity as “culture buff” compels him to interpret the crisis in pedagogy and values as a purely cultural crisis, unrelated to the larger social crisis underlying it” (275).

     Wolin suggests that the values and “motivational crisis” of youth cannot be separated from the larger economic system, and the values it fosters. In a society where only quantity and product matters, it’s no surprise that students see an undergraduate career as a way to a better-paying job, instead of a chance to broaden their cultural and academic selves.