Sunday, January 21, 2007

15 Minutes

Check it out - I'm famous. Well, if you get to the back page of the Wall Street Journal and to the middle of the article, anyway...

Here are a few snippets - the whole article is here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116917079496581026.html



January 19, 2007

TASTE

The New Campus Dissidents

By KATHERINE MANGU-WARD

January 19, 2007

Higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today's students," declared Allan Bloom in "The Closing of the American Mind," a book that chastised a generation of academics and students with its biting, furious analysis about the decline of American liberal education. Twenty years ago, at the time of the book's publication, things looked bleak for those who shared Bloom's qualms about the effects of relativism on the academy.

Recently, Bloom's heirs have been hammering on the closed door, trying to reopen the American mind a bit. Their latest door-opening move hasbeenan effort to create scholarly centers on campuses around the country. These centers would be devoted to the great books of Western civilization and the study of the American Founding, and they would be conducted in a rigorous, pre-1960s classroom style. Is there a chance of success?

The prototype of the idea--the Founding center, as it were--is the JamesMadison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, begun in the summer of 2000 by Prof. Robert P. George. The program has featured a traditional curriculum devoted, as advertised, to "American ideals and institutions," and it has attracted an array of visiting scholars, many of whom have gone elsewhere to try to seed similar institutions....

But one center cannot, by itself, open up America's narrow university culture. "If the light of veritas was going out when Bloom was writing," asks David DesRosiers of the Manhattan Institute, alluding to Yale's famous motto, "where are we now?" The answer seems to be that things are better, but only marginally so. To follow up on the Princeton model--to share the veritas--the Manhattan Institute has recently inaugurated the Veritas Fund, offering support to academics of a Bloomian bent. "To the degree that we find people that are interested in these subjects, in the name of intellectual pluralism we need to support them," says Mr. DesRosiers, the fund's executive director.

Patrick Deneen, who heads the newly formed Tocqueville Forum at Georgetown University, attracted the attention of the Veritas Fund right away. He wants to return to "an emphasis on classic texts, and particularly the way in which the American tradition draws on classical Western tradition and biblical tradition." The Tocqueville Forum has adopted Georgetown's emblem as its own--an eagle clutching a globe, the calipers of rationalism in one claw, a Christian cross in the other. In October, Mr. Deneen hosted a conference on American civic education. Justice Antonin Scalia was the keynote speaker, and much of the conservative professorial elite was in attendance.

Mr. Deneen, who taught at Princeton from 1997 to 2005, notes that, "for many people, there was a sense that universities had largely been lost to the forces of political correctness, softheaded multiculturalism." The Madison Program, he says, "energized many people throughout the academy." It provided "a legitimate intellectual and academic space where the kind of questions that lie at the heart of a classic education could be discussed." The Tocqueville Forum is trying to open up a similar space on Georgetown's campus.

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