"Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind Twenty-Five Years Later: The Continuing Failure of Higher Education?," panel discussion with Nathan Tarcov, Bill Kristol, Hillel Fradkin, Janet Dougherty, moderated by John Walters, hosted by the Hudson Institute, Washington, DC, 15 June 2012.
Twenty-five years ago, Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students offered a thorough indictment of American colleges and universities. Bloom attacked the very things faculty and students held most dear—historicism, cultural relativism, women’s studies, even rock music and the then-omnipresent Sony Walkman—as shallow and destructive of a genuine life of the mind.
Closing, a runaway best-seller, was in different ways serious, funny, frightening, and maddening for many who read it—and triggered an intense national debate. Those he attacked then counter-attacked, in thoughtful and not-so-thoughtful ways.
As higher education costs have skyrocketed, the liberal education that Bloom outlined seems even less a goal of colleges and universities today. Yet, according to Bloom, this trend endangers both human freedom and American democracy. Looking back with the hindsight of a quarter century, was Bloom correct or can we now more clearly discern errors in Bloom’s critique?