Illiberal Education

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

D’Souza discusses problems that have surfaced at several leading American universities, such as the “Admissions Policy at Berkeley,” where the principle of “equal opportunity” does not apply to Asian Americans forced to compete for available openings against their own peer group of high achievers, so that room can be made for other minorities with lower test scores. He also investigates “Multiculturalism at Stanford” and demonstrates how a new sequence of required courses on “Cultures, Ideas and Values” successfully challenged a curriculum dominated by alleged Eurocentrism, replacing core works of Western civilization with texts produced in the third world. Other chapters focus on “The New Censorship” (at Michigan), “Race and Gender at Harvard,” and “Subverting Academic Standards at Duke.”

D’Souza, himself a “person of color” (from India) and formerly the editor of the right-wing DARTMOUTH REVIEW, provides an interesting perspective on multiculturalism while demanding a return to general education based on the values of Western civilization. Though the books is a right-wing polemic, D’Souza documents so many examples of how the ideals of a liberal education have been subverted by well-meaning enthusiasts that those who believe strongly in those ideals will be outraged. It is not possible to complete the book without concluding that things have gone too far and that higher education is seriously in need of reform to correct the trends cited. At times the arguments are clearly loaded and the tone wryly smug as D’Souza asserts that the academic establishment has been taken over by scruffy radicals from the 1960’s who are now tenured professors and administrators, surely a simplistic distortion. But the consequences of left-wing idealism carried to excess are clearly outlined in D’Souza’s six case studies, cleverly designed to outrage both liberals and conservatives.