Item description for The Skies of Babylon: Diversity, Nihilism, and the American University by Barry Bercier...
The contemporary university is a tangled and troubled mess. In The Skies of Babylon, Barry Bercier attempts to help us see through and beyond the ideological fog that envelops academia by beginning with a simple thesis: the university should exist in service to the desire to teach. Bercier sees in that desire something very close to the desire for life itself, since through teaching one passes on to others the way of life one has received.
When measured against that desire, today's colleges and universities are abysmal failures, argues Bercier. The contemporary university is at war with its past and in angry denial of its origins. It is about the business of cultural parricide---and seeks precisely to induct young people into its work. Under the rubric of "diversity," it searches for anything other than its own identity. Academic games, careerism, the elaboration of a cynical and sterile politics, the production of systems of social-scientific control for the management of a befuddled and impotent populace---these things have replaced teaching and the work of education.
In The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom made Athens his starting point. Bercier, by contrast, grounds his reflection in Jerusalem, in the idea of the West as having its deepest foundation in the biblical narration of the story of man. He suggests that returning to that story can shed light on the nihilistic anger at work on today's campus, and so defend against our academics' parricidal intentions. Bercier ends by encouraging a renewed respect for reason, a renewed ordering of the arts and sciences, and a renewed appreciation for our Western identity, now gravely important in light of the threat posed by our own homegrown nihilism and its Islamist doppelganger abroad.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.3" Width: 5.5" Height: 0.7" Weight: 0.35 lbs.
Release Date Dec 15, 2007
Publisher Intercollegiate Studies Institute
ISBN 1933859350 ISBN13 9781933859354
Availability 0 units.
More About Barry Bercier
Barry Bercier, lives and works in Worcester, Massachusetts. Bercier is a Catholic priest and member of the Augustinians of the Assumption, teaches theology at Assumption College. He holds advanced degrees from the Weston School of Theology, University of Notre Dame, and Boston College.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Skies of Babylon: Diversity, Nihilism, and the American University?
Universities, Christianity, Western Culture at a Crossroads Dec 11, 2007
Most of us caught up in the day-to-day business of a university know that personal survival means being only marginally open to a wide-eyed appraisal of the real cultural forces at play, though discomforting counter-evidence frets us on our over-loaded peripheries. Ironically, we're too busy with assessment ideologies and demands, as if we're in service to managers who hope everything can be reduced to mechanically-dealt-with numbers, often seen as "falsely collected data." I stood next to Mario Savio at Berkeley at his famous speech in 1964, so his statistics-challenging ideas about "Do not fold, bend, multilate, or spindle" still resonate, as I hope they always will.
Barry Bercier's new book remarkably articulates how the academic world in America is slowly but surely losing its hold on any meaningful sense of learning, wisdom, or knowledge--becoming yet another meaningless ideological force that manipulates a media-complacent taxpayer-base. I'm humbled by the clarity of his comments at times: He has the ability to penetrate the fog of popular discourse to describe what's actually happening on university campuses. His heroism is apparent when he links Christianity with Western Culture, both meaningfully and culturally in arrears (nay, forsaken) in universities today, and equally unacknowledged in our Hollywood and debased journalistic venues, the main conduits for ideas to the "masses" (as Napolean would have understood the term.)
My only misgiving about this book is that Bercier hopes that university faculty and administrators will lead a Martin Luther-type reform movement (both Bercier and Luther being Roman Catholic priests, responsible to the holiest of vows to secure their ordinations). This is obvious in his elevated or academic level of discourse. More general readers won't follow the level of philosophical abstraction that Bercier hopes is obvious in his disciplinary colleagues (at what level does "OED" need to be explained, to cite the simplest example, though obvious to me)? I'm assuming that he's trying to work his way up through the tenure-and-promotion process, not free to be himself. This is in contrast to UC Berkeley's (my alma mater's) journalism professor Michael Pollan's new book "In Defense of Food" that displays a reaching out to general readership, though admittedly falling short of the "connect a dot" larger themes that Bercier excels in. What's it take, for example, to acknowledge that today's "diversity" crowd actually favors a homogenized or blended future racial scenario?
The irony of having university faculty liberate themselves from their own self-imposed decline, as Bercier's intended audience suggests, seems to be an outrageous oversight. It must be remembered that Neil Postman's 1985 "Amusing Ourselves to Death" shows how a book can clearly and profoundly lay out a social problem--yet be side-stepped and ignored by universities already committed otherwise.