In the span of less than a generation, university humanities departments have experienced an almost unbelievable reversal of attitudes, now attacking and undermining what had previously been considered best and most worthy in the Western tradition. John M. Ellis here scrutinizes the new regime in humanistic studies. He offers a careful, intelligent analysis that exposes the weaknesses of notions that are fashionable in humanities today. In a clear voice, with forceful logic, he speaks out against the orthodoxy that has installed race, gender, and class perspectives at the center of college humanities curricula.
Ellis begins by showing that political correctness is a recurring impulse of Western society and one that has a discouraging history. He reveals the contradictions and misconceptions that surround the new orthodoxy and demonstrates how it is most deficient just where it imagines itself to be superior. Ellis contends that humanistic education today, far from being historically aware, relies on anachronistic thinking; far from being skeptical of Western values, represents a ruthless and unskeptical Western extremism; far from being valuable in bringing political perspectives to bear, presents politics that are crude and unreal; far from being sophisticated in matters of "theory," is largely ignorant of the range and history of critical theory; far from valuing diversity, is unable to respond to the great sweep of literature. In a concluding chapter, Ellis surveys the damage that has been done to higher education and examines the prospects for change.