Book of the Month
America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats), David Gelernter, Encounter Books, 2012, $23.99.
American culture changed dramatically in the 1960s and ’70s, and not for the better. That’s no secret. What’s less well known is what caused the culture to change so much so quickly.
David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, and a contributing editor at the Weekly Standard, believes two important changes in higher education helped further the spread of radical leftist ideas that so changed America. He details these changes in his newest book, America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats). The book offers a history of American higher education that tracks how postwar changes at elite universities such as Columbia and Yale changed the way the nation’s future leaders were trained and spread leftist ideas throughout society.
Education, argues Gelernter, was replaced with political indoctrination when the nation’s elite universities were hit by the “Great Reform,” which changed them from society colleges to centers for the “intellectuals” who rejected facts in favor of leftist theory, and by “Imperial Academia.” When elite schools lurched leftward, less prominent schools followed. At the same time that Universities were inviting radicals into the establishment, the G.I. Bill helped more people attend college than ever before. Together, these events resulted in an unprecedented spread of radical leftism that dramatically changed what many Americans of a certain generation thought about God and country. When that generation grew into local and national leadership positions, the leftist theories in which they had been trained spread even further.
Gelernter argues that President Obama is not an ideologue bent on spreading his radical leftist theories so much as he is a member of a nominally educated leadership class which takes its unexamined leftism for granted. This makes him all the more dangerous, because there are so many more like him. President Obama, writes Gelernter, is not just a man, but also:
. . . a symbol, a living embodiment, of the failure of American education and its ongoing replacement by political indoctrination. He is a symbol of the new American elite, the new establishment, where left-liberal politics is no longer a conviction, no longer a way of thinking: it is built-in mind-furniture you take for granted without needing to think. . . . Obama is no ideologue; he doesn’t rise to that level.
Gelernter offers a simple solution to the crisis: conservatives must take American education back from the “liberal airheads.” If we can do that, he writes, “we have barely begun to bloom.”