The Closing of the American Mind

by Allan Bloom

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Any suggestion for a thesis statement for a 7 page paper on "The Closing of the American Mind?   Specifically, what a good argument might be, and the methodology for such an argument.

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Allen Bloom's masterful work that exposes "how higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today's students" points to the indoctrination that has occurred on college campuses that relativism has no real value and that there are no absolute truths. Further, Bloom contends that universities afford no value to ideas per se and students have not been allowed to discuss their ideas, especially if they do not conform to conventional wisdom. Alluding to the 1960's when college students revolted, Bloom contends that they were acting as Nietzscheans because they attacked the institutions as merely expressing the values of the current controlling conservative culture. (In the first part of this decade, Newsweek magazine published an article on how students who were conservative in their religious and political views in several universities were disparaged for their viewpoints in classes and had their grades lowered because they expressed ideas that did not coincide with those of their liberal professors who predominated the faculty.) 

Bloom has been criticized for being too elitist in his ideas as some critics of his book argue that he feels that only the best schools and the best students can direct and alter society. Still others feel that as a Platonist Bloom places too much emphasis upon ideas. An argumentative paper, then, will be written by the student who argues for or against Bloom's position.Thus the thesis statement will declare the position that the writer takes. Here is an example of a thesis statement pulled from a critical essay, the link to which is cited below:

Bloom’s lament is that in the last quarter century, students at the very best American universities have ceased caring for their souls and instead have substituted the idea of the self as worthy of all their attention. 

If this were a student's thesis statement, he would then write an argumentative paper that either supports or refutes this position. In so doing, then, he will locate the support that Bloom gives for his position and then decide if it is logical or not. Here are some steps to follow after defining the issue to argue in the thesis (also see the link below on writing an argumentative essay):

  • List arguments and counterarguments on the position taken in the thesis. Essentially you will agree or disagree with Bloom's contentions.
  • Search for evidence in the text and outside sources that will underscore what Bloom contends, or against these contentions.
  • Sometimes there are arguments that oppose what you contend. Then, you make this "conceding point" to demonstrate that you have considered all sides of the issue.

After gleaning the arguments and evidence that you need, organize by doing the following:

  • Create an effective introduction. In persuasive writing, it is important to get your readers to care about the issue you argue. Often starting with an anecdote or "vignette" or a surprising statistic grabs a reader's interest.
  • Organize your arguments by (a) order of importance, or (b) logical order 
  • Make arguments and logical appeals concrete, not abstract. Use reasons and evidence from some research.
  • Make appeals to emotion a persuasive writing involves emotional appeals.
  • Use connotative language, (use sparingy)emotional appeals, and denotative language-the dictionary definition.

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