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Clueless in Academe

How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind

Gerald Graff


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An eminent scholar and educator looks at the academic world from a crucial perspective for teachers—the perspective of those who don’t get it
Gerald Graff argues that our schools and colleges make the intellectual life seem more opaque, narrowly specialized, and beyond normal learning capacities than it is or needs to be. Left clueless in the academic world, many students view the life of the mind as a secret society for which only an elite few qualify.

In a refreshing departure from standard diatribes against academia, Graff shows how academic unintelligibility is unwittingly reinforced not only by academic jargon and obscure writing, but by the disconnection of the curriculum and the failure to exploit the many connections between academia and popular culture. Finally, Graff offers a wealth of practical suggestions for making the culture of ideas and arguments more accessible to students, showing how students can enter the public debates that permeate their lives.

Praise For Clueless in Academe: How Schooling Obscures the Life of the Mind

"Graff is reopening the door on a major debate. In the wake of theory, in the wake of feminism, post-colonial criticism and all the rest, what is a liberal arts education supposed to be about? How should teachers teach? What should students learn? Intelligently, humanely, Gerald Graff is bringing all of these questions back home to the classroom, which, at least for now, seems exactly where they belong."—Mark Edmundson, Washington Post Book World

"[Graff] writes with lucidity and charm. . . . A worthwhile work trapped in an enigma."—Steven Lagerfeld, Wall Street Journal

Yale University Press, 9780300105148, 320pp.

Publication Date: July 11, 2004

About the Author

Gerald Graff, Professor of English and Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the author of many books and articles, including Beyond the Culture Wars, and he was winner of the American Book Award in 1992. He is currently working with his wife, Cathy Birkenstein-Graff, on a writing textbook, A Short Guide to Argument, that will be a how-to companion to Clueless in Academe.