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Lunch » Tags » Untagged » America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered In the Obamacrats) » User review

Litening of the American Mind

  • Feb 25, 2013
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The problems with the American higher education are a legion. You can hardly open a newspaper today without coming across an article decrying many ills that overly expensive education has saddled the students with. As the price tag of a college diploma seems to be getting ever more out of control, the value of what students get diminishes every year.

The over-priced and under-valued American higher education is just a symptom of a larger problem with the academie. The problem is the subversion of the meritocratic mindset that flourished, however briefly, for a little while during the opening of the American colleges and universities in the middle of the twentieth century.

One of this book's greatest strengths is that it takes a long view of the American higher education, much longer than most such books on this subject. It goes all the way to the founding principles of many such institutions a few centuries ago, especially the private ones. American colleges and universities have always been a form of exclusive social clubs, and the emphasis on the value of the actual education that one gets from them has ebbed and flowed over time. The meritocratic renaissance was the result of few momentous social and cultural developments around the middle of the twentieth century – the G.I. bill, the massive-scale entering of the women into the workforce, the increasingly service-oriented economy, the introduction of the standardized tests, to name just a few. However, this change of the value and perception of the higher education quickly became a self-serving exercise in the control of the cultural influences, and the new generation of (very leftward) professors took it upon themselves to go beyond empowering students with knowledge and education, and turned the universities into the boot camps of left-wing radicalism and activism. Even though only a small fraction of students accepted the full-scope of this indoctrination, the impact that it had on the culture and society as a whole was profound and long-lasting. This was the birth of the "imperial overreach" of the institutions of the higher learning.

The tone of this book is very polemical, and it will not win over many converts I am afraid. However, to those of us who are already in the choir it provides much needed intellectual articulation of certain ideas that we've come to take for granted. The author is also at moments quite consciously literally in his allusions and turns of phrase. This is a welcome change from most of the rather drab writing that characterizes modern "current events" writing, but it can also come across as a bit pretentious. Nonetheless, I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in getting a better grip on the scope of current crisis in the higher education.

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About the reviewer
Bojan Tunguz ()
Ranked #50
I am a benevolent rascal. I love lounging in bed on a Sunday morning. Rainy days make me melancholy, but in a good kind of way. I am an incorrigible chocoholic. I hate Mondays, but I get over it by Wednesday. … more
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David Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale, contributing editor at the Weekly Standard, regular contributor to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and former board member of the National Endowment for the Arts. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, and his essays are widely anthologized. Among his many books are Mirror Worlds (“one of the most influential books in computer science”: Technology Review), the novel 1939: The Lost World of the Fair (“Original and arresting”: Washington Post Book World), the memoir Drawing Life (a New York Times “notable book of the year”), and most recently Americanism (2006) and Judaism: A Way of Being (2009).
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