Monday, December 22, 2008

Bloom & Dewey, Sittin' in a Tree

Never thought of it this way.

The differences between Dewey and Bloom are so vast and obvious to provide endless fodder for contrast. However, perhaps because of the overwhelming obviousness of these differences, some fundamental similarities can be easily overlooked. Compared to each other, Dewey and Bloom are nearly perfect opposites, natural opponents in a long culture war that pre-dates the invention of that term in the 1980s, and in which Bloom was an incendiary combatant. However, contrasted together against yet another conception of liberal education, it is arguable that it is their similarities, and not their differences, that become more salient. While opponents often attributed to Bloom a kind of cultural conservatism that they found expressed in aspects of educational works by E.D. Hirsch – namely that our culture was deserving of defense and sympathetic understanding – what was often missed by many critics was Bloom’s deep mistrust toward the claims of culture and his pervasive anti-traditionalism, a hostility that he shared with Dewey. For both Bloom and Dewey, liberal education represented a kind of liberation from the traditional and ancestral. To this extent, they might properly be thought of as intellectual cousins within a larger family of anti-traditionalism and rejection of culture; for all their profound differences, in the end they can be seen as united more fundamentally in their hostility to the claims of culture and tradition. To this extent, they are linked in a common definition of “liberal education” that stresses the liberative quality of education, and can be seen as common antagonists toward an alternative definition of liberal education which rests more deeply upon an acceptance of limits and restraint. One sees especially this common antagonism in their views toward religious education, or more broadly, an education in “virtue.”

I still have Bloom's "Closing of the American Mind" on the shelf; read it a long time ago, and was ultimately disappointed in the work, but unable to put a finger on 'why.'

Deneen did, and thanks to him!

Looking at it the way Deneen does also shows the weakness of the Liberal Project exemplified by Bush's 'everybody gets a house', which is an aggrandizement of the 'chickens, pots, cars' meme of FDR.

We are all Liberal Project now! Sad that it's not so easy to pay for it, right?

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