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Let’s Be Reasonable: A Conservative Case for Liberal Education, ISBN-13: 978-0691193854



  • Format: PDF
  • Publisher: ‎ Princeton University Press (February 9, 2021)
  • Language: ‎ English
  • 248 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎ 0691193851
  • ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0691193854

Another appeal for the liberal arts is Let’s Be Reasonable: The Conservative Case For Liberal Education by Jonathan Marks, a professor of political science at Ursinus College. A student of Allan Bloom, the much-quoted critic of American higher education, Marks writes within a conservative tradition, but offers a much more nuanced portrait of higher education than is typical of the hyperbole and hysterics offered by some conservative pundits.

Marks says his aim is to “make a conservative case for liberal education.” In doing so, he also suggests – reasonably – that the criticisms so many conservative pundits love to lob at left-learning colleges often miss the mark. For example, “Regardless of what you may have heard, our universities aren’t governed by balding radicals and their student disciples.”

Still, Marks raises legitimate concerns about the prominence of liberal orthodoxy on many campuses and the capitulation to it that’s become too common: “Although conservatives, for the most part, can work in peace, and although not that many faculty members are on the far left, there is little appetite for challenging conventional left-wing wisdom.”

Marks calls on universities to devote themselves to the work of cultivating reason and pride in “being reasonable,” and he warns that while such work is difficult, “if universities, distracted by other things, fail at it, students and graduates marching under…other banners are unlikely to do themselves or others much good.”

Writing in a personal, often jaunty tone, Marks laments the fact that our colleges too often offer only “bland and scattered justifications” for the liberal arts, a deficiency his book seeks -with considerable seriousness and success – to remedy.


“Jonathan Marks offers a compelling conservative case for liberal education. More important, he also gives us a reasonable and convincing case for liberal education. You don’t have to be conservative―whatever that means these days―to admire this book.”―William Kristol, editor-at-large, The Bulwark

“Wittily, and in the spirit of reasonableness his book champions, Jonathan Marks rekindles a higher education aspiration that has been too dormant: to cultivate citizens eager to found their judgments on more than passion or prejudice. Many fine books promote open inquiry, free speech, and robust discourse on campus. This book explores how we can inspire students to cherish and practice them, on campus and beyond.”―Nadine Strossen, professor emerita, New York Law School, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union

“There is a role for politics in higher education, but it should not be one of enforced conformity. Jonathan Marks’s witty and readable challenge to contemporary practices will not be welcome in all quarters, but that is exactly why it is important.”―Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, former president of the American Association of University Professors

Let’s Be Reasonable is sharp, concise, engaged, and, yes, funny. It’s high time we saw a conservative plea for liberal education.”―Jonathan Zimmerman, author of Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education

About the Author

Jonathan Marks is professor of politics at Ursinus College and a blogger for Commentary magazine. He is the author of Perfection and Disharmony in the Thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and has written on higher education for the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Wall Street Journal, and the Weekly Standard. He lives in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.


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