The bestseller that reminded us what it means to be an American is more timely than ever in this updated and enlarged edition, including "Schlesinger's Syllabus," an annotated reading list of core books on the American experience.
In a courageous, important, forcefully argued essay, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Schlesinger contends that America as melting pot has given way to an "eruption of ethnicity'' that threatens to replace assimilation with fragmentation, and integration with separatism. As a case in point, he critiques Afrocentric curricula in schools and colleges which, in his view, glorify a mythic past and make such highly dubious claims as the notion that black Africa is the birthplace of science, philosophy, religion and technology, and the trendy but totally unsubstantiated theory that ancient Egypt was essentially a black African country. Those who attempt to use the schools for "social and psychological therapy'' to promote minority self-esteem are doomed to failure, asserts Schlesinger, because "feel-good history'' is factually flawed and does not equip students to grapple with their lives. Schools should certainly teach about other cultures and continents, he stresses, while faulting multiculturalists who forget that Europe is the unique source of liberating ideas of individual autonomy, political democracy and cultural freedom to which most of the world today aspires. The book was originally published in 1991 by Whittle Communications for selective distribution.