The fracturing and castigating discourse around identity, coupled with metastasizing inequality of both opportunity and outcome, leads Egginton to make the necessary if familiar case that a humanities education—however out of fashion and reach for many Americans—is still the 'key in the formation of a public capable of democratic self-governance' ... [Egginton] make[s] clear from a variety of angles is that if we are going to beat back the regressive populism, mendacity and hyperpolarization in which we are currently mired, we are going to need an educated citizenry fluent in a wise and universal liberalism.
In this provocative account, Egginton, director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins University, investigates how higher education’s emphasis on identity affects the current political landscape ... Egginton’s pot-stirring prose—at one point he describes colleges as 'boutique department stores where the elite go to purchase an education the way one might purchase a luxury automobile'—will delight some readers and rile others, but his book will interest anyone wanting a better sense of the current mood surrounding American higher education.
In The Closing of the American Mind, philosopher Allan Bloom criticized the nation’s colleges and universities for fostering the notion of moral relativism instead of critical thinking and the pursuit of truth. More than 30 years later, Egginton delivers a sequel of sorts, arguing that 'we are in danger of losing our civic culture.' The flourishing of identity politics on campuses, while rightly providing much-needed benefits to marginalized groups, has led to a balkanization of our students at the expense of any sense of community ... Egginton provides a helpful diagnosis of why today’s college students are divided. Unfortunately, the author’s own sowing of discord will do little to unite them.