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The Splintering of the American Mind: Identity Politics, Inequality, and Community on Today's College Campuses

A timely, provocative, necessary look at how identity politics has come to dominate college campuses and higher education in America at the expense of a more essential commitment to equality.

Thirty years after the culture wars, identity politics is now the norm on college campuses-and it hasn't been an unalloyed good for our education system or the country. Though the civil rights movement, feminism, and gay pride led to profoundly positive social changes, William Egginton argues that our culture's increasingly narrow focus on individual rights puts us in a dangerous place. The goal of our education system, and particularly the liberal arts, was originally to strengthen community; but the exclusive focus on individualism has led to a new kind of intolerance, degrades our civic discourse, and fatally distracts progressive politics from its commitment to equality.

Egginton argues that our colleges and universities have become exclusive, expensive clubs for the cultural and economic elite instead of a national, publicly funded project for the betterment of the country. Only a return to the goals of community, and the egalitarian values underlying a liberal arts education, can head off the further fracturing of the body politic and the splintering of the American mind.

With lively, on-the-ground reporting and trenchant analysis, The Splintering of the American Mind is a powerful book that is guaranteed to be controversial within academia and beyond. At this critical juncture, the book challenges higher education and every American to reengage with our history and its contexts, and to imagine our nation in new and more inclusive ways.

Reviews of Splintering of

the American Mind


By Christopher S. Celenza, Ph.D., Dean of Georgetown College at Georgetown University

The Splintering of the American Mind challenges all those working in higher education to return to first principles. Egginton offers constructive criticism delivered with wit, learning, and a welcome glimpse at where the 'culture wars' of the 1980s and 90s wound up, even as his account points in helpful new directions.


Does Our Cultural Obsession With Safety Spell the Downfall of Democracy?


By Thomas Chatterton Williams

In “The Splintering of the American Mind,” William Egginton, a humanities professor at Johns Hopkins, examines the competing costs and benefits of the country’s continuing shift away from a commonly accepted — albeit white — canon of shared narratives to an “exploration and celebration of marginalized racial and sexual identities.” He devotes a significant chunk of the book to one of the most vexing problems of our time — rampant inequality of both economic and social capital — and demonstrates the complicated and sometimes inadvertent ways in which our winner-take-all higher education system exacerbates and locks this in.

Matthieu Bourel


Campus Culture Wars and the Future of American Community

Thirty years ago this summer two students filed suit in federal court against Dartmouth College charging the administration with racial discrimination. The students were both white, and had been disciplined by the school for harassing a black professor.

David Mark

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