The Closing of the American Mind

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American children are taught at a very young age that Americans are superior to all other cultures. A familiar notion that has surrounded the thoughts of American minds for centuries is that America is the number one country and more advanced than other cultures. Perhaps the best emphasis was written and discussed by Professor Allan Bloom in his book titled The Closing of the American Mind. “The Clean Slate”, a very inspiring chapter in the book, analyzed the differences between the American experience or tradition and the European experience. This book also made numerous portrayals of Bloom’s personal distinctions and his accusations of what the American theme is, the hindrances in present day learning, and comprehension of traditions.

Could our personal superiority to other cultures be a figment of our imagination? In comparing the differences between American traditions and those of the Europeans, we are not rated as highly as we have always predicted. The European cultures instill in their young a yearning to learn at a very young age. Children are encouraged and expected to read specific literature that pertains to their culture. Most of the literature that is studied has been passed down by their forefathers and is a basis of their European traditions. European children are persuaded as adolescents to continue their education and choose careers that are oriented around philosophy and literature, therefore these students appear to be more prepared for these particular subjects when they arrive to college or a major university. According to Bloom, “Americans, were, in effect, told they could be whatever they wanted to be or happened to be as long as they recognized that the same applied to all other men and they were willing to support and defend the government that guaranteed dispensation” (Bloom, 5). With this type of encouragement from parents and mentors, American students are taught to concentrate only on subjects that will enhance their knowledge in these areas. American students may not be exposed to a significant amount of literature and philosophy in their earlier years. Most American families place a higher emphasis on some of the higher paid professions in America, mainly business and entertainment. European students aspire to obtain a better understanding of what has already been introduced to them at an early age whereas American students prepare for a new beginning.

Bloom made a principal distinction “that we can begin with nothing that uncultivated nature sufficed” (Bloom, 54). America has taken a beating by many other cultures for being uneducated, and perhaps their young adults are unprepared for college and the challenges attached with attending college. Could Americans have a better advantage entering college lacking some knowledge in certain areas? American students without traditional constraints and encouragement to perfect the arts and literature may have a thirst for knowledge in these areas. European students have been exposed to these subjects and may feel no inspiration to learn or rediscover any new advancement in these areas. It is also possible that European students are eager to discover other fields of study to encounter new and innovative ideas. The overflowing amount of American college students graduating college or major universities each year indicated that American culture can survive without being introduced to literature and philosophy. Bloom best stated this by saying “That conviction was that nature is the only thing that counts in education, that the human desire to know is permanent, that all it really needs is the proper nourishment, and that education is merely putting the feast on the table” (Bloom, 51).

On the other hand, American’s lack of tradition may be due to the American theme in accordance to Bloom, “America tells one story the unbroken, ineluctable progress of freedom and equality” (Bloom, 55). Could the vanity and vexation of the American pursuit to obtain the right to life, liberty, and happiness have become overstated? We, as Americans, have allowed our children’s educational curriculum to be altered to accommodate what cynical, uneducated parents feel their children should or should not have the right to learn and our educational systems have suffered as a result of these measures. The American tradition has also allowed the Bible to be taken out of educational institutions in pursuit of freedom and equality to all. The true message our forefathers intended for our society has been replaced by unwarranted personal desires.

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Our inability to understand our American traditions and the hindrances of present day learning may cause many students to become oblivious to comprehend other cultural beliefs. How can we know where we’re going if we do not know where we came from? Most students today have no knowledge of what our great country stands for and therefore ridicule what they have been taught. An interesting concept made by Bloom explains “Most students could be counted on to know the Bible, …… In America it was not filtered through great national interpreters,….every man his own interpreter” (Bloom, 54). Bible reading has been a definite bond between families and other cultures, but with the lack of studying and comprehension this link has been lost for many years. The Bible, once a common denominator, has been thrown by the wayside and the gap between cultures has been greatened. If American students are taught their traditions early in life perhaps our minds could be open to the understanding our own traditions and those of other countries. These teachings, in turn, will decrease the ignorance between cultures and tradition of freedom and equality will be carried our accordingly.

In conclusion, Bloom states “The loss of books has made them narrower and flatter. Narrower, because they lack what is most necessary, a real basis for discontent with the present and awareness that there are alternatives to it” (Bloom, 61). Most students will agree that books open the imagination and allow us the choice of what might occur. Poetry, literature, and drama among other styles of expressions enhance our ability to analyze situations from other perspectives. It is important that all children are taught use their brains, the latest technology available, and consider alternative outcomes for similar situations. Bloom used exemplary comparisons to show how a tradition affects our learning, how Americans have taken their theme out of concept, and how to create a better culture for our children, who represent the future of our nation. We need to change our educational system to better equip our children for the future. According to Bloom, “The refinement of the mind’s eye that permits it to see the delicate distinctions among men, among their deeds and their motives, and constitutes real taste, is impossible without the assistance of literature in grand style” (Bloom, 61).

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