Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind was hailed in many quarters as a masterpiece of conservative scholarship and an attempt to rescue American education from the death-grip of relativism. His call for a return to Great Books education (using the received canon of Western literature in place of textbooks) set him apart from other liberal scholars, as did his emphasis on understanding the past in order to unravel the present and plan for the future.
A Reformed Theological Seminary professor until his death, Ronald H. Nash offers an alternative interpretation of Bloom's classic, and suggests that it is not the American mind only that needs to be opened, but the heart as well. He's careful to qualify—his definition of heartis taken from Scripture, and is not meant to signify mere emotion as opposed to intellect, but indicates the conscience and the mind, that which makes us moral and rational beings.
The Closing of the American Heart is one of the more intellectual and philosophical investigations of the tragedy of United States public education available; a professor of philosophy and apologetics, Nash roves between Nietzsche and Hegel with confidence and ease. But he never leaves readers behind, explaining concepts fully before presenting ideas of his own. He is articulate yet accessible, and this book is not only instructive, it's good reading.
Not that elements aren't difficult to grasp at times, though they tend to be peripheral matters rather than the core of his arguments. He begins by explaining the nature of Bloom's book, and by pointing out Bloom's faulty arguments as well as those of Bloom's critics. He demonstrates that, while an opponent of a certain kind of Western cultural relativism, Bloom was still a relativist, and that his argument ultimately fails because he rejected (or simply ignored) any kind of absolute moral standard.
Nash supplies that standard from the Word of God, and proceeds to show why American education is so bad, how it got there, and why character training must be a part of any curriculum. Of course, with the humanist and Marxist philosophies unleashed in our nation's educational system, such character training does in fact exist, but rather than turning students into godly citizens it's making them zombies enslaved to selfishness and stupidity.
Like Bloom, Nash offers a proposed strategy for reclaiming American education in the second half of his book. Unlike Bloom, who simply argued from a traditionalist standpoint, Nash promotes the Christian school and college (as well as home schools) as able to infuse academic instruction with a Christian worldview and thus reconnect Christians with their historical faith. Even more applicable now than on its first publication, The Closing of the American Heart is Christian educational philosophy of the first order.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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