The Assault on American Excellence
The former dean of Yale Law School argues that the feverish egalitarianism gripping college campuses today is out of place at institutions whose job is to prepare citizens to live in a vibrant democracy. In his tenure at Yale, Anthony Kronman has watched students march across campus to protest the names of buildings and seen colleagues resign over emails about Halloween costumes. He is no stranger to recent confrontations at American universities. But where many see only the suppression of free speech, the babying of students, and the drive to bury the imperfect parts of our history, Kronman recognizes in these on-campus clashes a threat to our democracy. As Kronman argues in The Assault on American Excellence, the founders of our nation learned over three centuries ago that in order for this country to have a robust democratic government, its citizens have to be trained to have tough skins, to make up their own minds, and to win arguments not on the basis of emotion but because their side is closer to the truth. In other words, to prepare people to choose good leaders, you need to turn them into smart fighters, people who can take hits and think clearly so they’re not manipulated by demagogues. Kronman is the first to tie today’s campus debates back to the history of American values, drawing on luminaries like Alexis de Tocqueville and John Adams to show how these modern controversies threaten the best of our intellectual traditions. His tone is warm and optimistic, that of a humanist and a lover of the humanities who is passionate about educating students capable of living up to the demands of a thriving democracy. Incisive and wise, The Assault on American Excellence makes the radical argument that to graduate as good citizens, college students have to be tested in a system that isn’t wholly focused on being good to them.

The Assault on American Excellence Details

TitleThe Assault on American Excellence
Author
ReleaseAug 20th, 2019
PublisherFree Press
ISBN-139781501199486
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Education, Politics, Philosophy, Psychology

The Assault on American Excellence Review

  • Mehrsa
    January 1, 1970
    Seems that the easiest book to get published these days is a long rant about how safe spaces and renaming buildings and complaining minorities are ruining everything. As if Bret Stephens and David Brookes repeated columns aren't enough, we need several full books of unintelligible ranting. This book is mostly that--the minorities are ruining everything with their feelings. But that's not totally fair--it's also a (weird) attempt to restore the Aristocratic tradition of excellence (that I guess t Seems that the easiest book to get published these days is a long rant about how safe spaces and renaming buildings and complaining minorities are ruining everything. As if Bret Stephens and David Brookes repeated columns aren't enough, we need several full books of unintelligible ranting. This book is mostly that--the minorities are ruining everything with their feelings. But that's not totally fair--it's also a (weird) attempt to restore the Aristocratic tradition of excellence (that I guess the minorities are also coming after?)--the idea at the bulk of this tradition is that some people are better than others at being human and having big thoughts and it's ok for the University to cater to them. Fair enough, but what does the rant have to do with that? And why does Kronman not seem to picture a minority when describing the excellent aristocrat (that's a rhetorical question, obviously). But to be really really fair, there is a nugget at the core of this book that I wholeheartedly agree with--actually I agree with most of it, but it's so littered with lazy thinking that I won't give him credit when he stumbles on obvious truths. The nugget is his analysis of Bakke--this is the supreme court case that justified affirmative action on diversity grounds. This was a terrible decision. Justice Thurgood Marshall blasted the court in a dissent (one that Kronman and I both agree was right). Affirmative ACtion was justified because of historic wrongs and the uneven playing field. The Court said it is only justified to create diversity in colleges and since then affirmative action and diversity have been a muddled mess of reasoning. Kronman would like to go back and change history--or otherwise, stop pursuing diversity because he thinks diversity takes away from excellence. I, too, believe the decision was wrong, but I think it's cynical and wrong to say that diversity is the reason for the "assault on American excellence."
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  • Timothy Hall
    January 1, 1970
    Kronman was dean of the Yale Law School for a decade beginning in 1994. Although he is a self-described progressive, this book is a vigorous assault on the supposed value of "diversity" in higher education. He would have supported uses of affirmative action by colleges and universities to remedy past societal discrimination along lines of race, unlike the majority of Supreme Court justices in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). Nevertheless, he argues that the Supreme Court' Kronman was dean of the Yale Law School for a decade beginning in 1994. Although he is a self-described progressive, this book is a vigorous assault on the supposed value of "diversity" in higher education. He would have supported uses of affirmative action by colleges and universities to remedy past societal discrimination along lines of race, unlike the majority of Supreme Court justices in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). Nevertheless, he argues that the Supreme Court's determination that the value of educational diversity justifies race-conscious admissions policies in higher education has had a destructive effect on the life of colleges and universities. This is so, he suggests, because the emphasis on diversity undermines the commitment he believes higher education should have to a humanistic ideal of excellence in living.
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  • Steve
    January 1, 1970
    A provocative look at the several of the forces eroding higher education in today's America. One doesn't have to agree with everything (part of the point of the book-- academia is not the same as democracy), but this, along with The Coddling of the American Mind, is an important book for anyone who cares about learning and what's going on right now.
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  • Kevin
    January 1, 1970
    Appreciate his points - and agree with nearly all of them - but this book could have been shorter and more direct.
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