My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Susan Jacoby’s book is at its best when she’s weaving together her philosophical take on intellectualism and elitism with failings in modern education, American citizens, and public debate. Unfortunately, she sometimes falls into a sense of “days gone by,” reminiscing about individual moments in history, e.g. Robert Kennedy announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr, without convincingly connecting that moment to her thesis.
That Robert Kennedy uses a few lines of poetry in an extemporaneous speech hardly qualifies as proof of his intellectualism, any more than I using poetry from the likes of Robert Frost or Stephen Crane as a teacher proves my elitism. Still the book offers an interesting take on how relativism in education has helped usher in the age of pseudo-science, which in turn begets a dumbed-down public debate in America.
There’s little chance that anyone reading the book will come away with an opinion, as Jacoby’s take on religion, television, media, education, and politics are the foundation of the work. While some essays left me wanting the author to prove her point (she often argues with anecdote), each section forced me to consider where I stood on the issue of intellectualism in America.