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The Splintering of the American Mind

Identity Politics, Inequality, and Community on Today’s College Campuses

William Egginton

Bloomsbury Publishing

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ISBN10: 1635571332
ISBN13: 9781635571332


272 Pages



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Thirty years after the culture wars, identity politics is now the norm on college campuses—and it hasn't been an unalloyed good for our education system or the country. Though the civil rights movement, feminism, and gay pride led to profoundly positive social changes, William Egginton argues that our culture's increasingly narrow focus on individual rights puts us in a dangerous place. The goal of our education system, and particularly the liberal arts, was originally to strengthen community; but the exclusive focus on individualism has led to a new kind of intolerance, degrades our civic discourse, and fatally distracts progressive politics from its commitment to equality.

Egginton argues that our colleges and universities have become exclusive, expensive clubs for the cultural and economic elite instead of a national, publicly funded project for the betterment of the country. Only a return to the goals of community, and the egalitarian values underlying a liberal arts education, can head off the further fracturing of the body politic and the splintering of the American mind.


Praise for The Splintering of the American Mind

"The Splintering of the American Mind challenges all those working in higher education to return to first principles. Egginton offers constructive criticism delivered with wit, learning, and a welcome glimpse at where the 'culture wars' of the 1980s and 90s wound up, even as his account points in helpful new directions."—Christopher S. Celenza, Ph.D., Dean of Georgetown College at Georgetown University

"A compassionate clarion call for academia to help reconstruct a national community sundered by divisions of class, geography, and education. He provides a convincing blueprint for how educators can promote community through changes in curriculum, particularly through a re-emphasis on the humanities, and public policy."—David Goldfield, Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History and author of The Gifted Generation

"For anyone concerned about the state of modern America and Higher Education’s role in it, Egginton provides an artful and passionate plea for America to revive its public sphere, and to renew our collective sense of commonwealth."—Ben Vinson III, Dean, Columbian College of Arts & Sciences, George Washington University, and author of Before Mestizaje

"An eloquent and moving defense of higher education’s contribution to the public good. Insisting that identity politics isn’t the enemy of community, and democracy is still a revolutionary idea, he steps nimbly around either/or choices, pointing the way forward to a more truly equitable campus—and country."—Laura Kipnis, author of Unwanted Advances

"An incisive and nuanced diagnosis of the ruptures in our society that so challenge higher education today. His call for a universal experience of the liberal arts as essential to democracy is as compelling as any I have seen."—Adam Falk, President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

William Egginton

William Egginton is the Decker Professor in the Humanities and director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at the Johns Hopkins University. His highly praised books include How the World Became a Stage, The Theater of Truth, The Philosopher's Desire, and The Man Who Invented Fiction. He regularly writes for the New York Times' online forum The Stone, the LA Review of Books, and Stanford University's Arcade. Egginton lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and Vienna, Austria, with his family.