Review: The Closing of the American Mind

by Allan Bloom


I sit here and wonder where to even begin. This book is a mammoth to digest, hard to categorize because it is so multilayered, and wonderfully and frighteningly brilliant on top of it all. Bloom wrote the book in the eighties, yet you feel as if he’s looking through a window to today. He grapples with many subjects— all connected. Philosophy, the minds of the modern American student, education, the university, and over everything the thread of thought which has shaped modern Americans without their even realizing it.

Failure of culture is now culture.

Allan Bloom

Reading this book was like opening a window and looking down into a world I hadn’t known existed. It brought a different perspective to what we believe to be American virtues and American culture. It did reinforce some things I already knew to be true— like the dire state of our educational system— but it revealed that the rot is actually worse and for greater reasons than I originally believed. It challenges the faddish way we engage with the world and asks us if our values are truly that, or if they are merely public opinion fads we are swept into and therefore buffeted by. (He even takes to task the word, “values”, and what it really means.)

This is one of those books I came to adjusting my glasses, because you just feel smart touching its cover, but THEN— you open it and begin to read. The smart feeling gets chucked out the window. This book is one of those, which makes you realize the depth of wisdom we (as Americans, especially) float along top of and never really explore or grasp.

My conclusions are these: 1) I’m nowhere near as intelligent as I think, 2) our schools have failed us from top to bottom, 3) you should read this book even if it takes you two years, and 4) the Information Age may just be viewed by history more as The Age of Informed and Arrogant Ignorance— the perpetrators of whose arrogance and the purveyors of whose ignorance may surprise you.

Knowledge may, or may not, be power, but it is certainly NOT wisdom.

Curiously, in democracy, the freest of societies, men turn out to be more willing to accept doctrines that tell them that they are determined, that is, not free.

Allan Bloom

© 2022 Katie Baker

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