Beyond the Culture Wars: How Teaching the Conflicts Can Revitalize American Education

Gerald Graff, Author
Gerald Graff, Author W. W. Norton & Company $19.95 (214p) ISBN 978-0-393-03424-0
Reviewed on: 11/02/1992
Release date: 11/01/1992
Paperback - 214 pages - 978-0-393-31113-6
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Decrying conservatives who claim higher education offers a choice between culture and barbarism, University of Chicago English professor Graff argues eloquently for a curriculum that includes political debates and multicultural texts. Though he brushes away charges of left-wing McCarthyism too easily, he skewers critic Dinesh D'Souza's claim that dead white males are being expelled firom required courses. Graff suggests that conservatives' only strategy to deal with conflicting views is to deny their legitimacy, and he wisely notes that the term common culture is always evolving. Using evidence from his own teaching, Graff shows how incorporating literary criticism written by the African novelist Chinua Achebe helped revise his teaching of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. He suggests that the ideological conflicts that accompany the curricular problem are getting students to grapple with ideas. Observing that students often have teachers with conflicting beliefs and assumptions in different classes, Graff concludes by surveying current innovative attempts at curriculum integration; oddly, he doesn't mention his own university's Great Books program. (Nov.)
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