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Why most American universities have given up on human purpose and meaning: a Critical exploration of the historical story

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Recent scholarship claims that American colleges and universities give less and less attention to the meaning of life. In this article we critically evaluate the historical arguments for this claim, focusing primarily on the account given by Anthony Kronman. We argue that Kronman’s history proves particularly problematic if one wants to understand the reasons for American higher education’s treatment of matters of meaning and purpose. His historical analysis of the rise of secular humanism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, followed by its decline over the last half century, is missing key components. Because of these missing elements, his prescription to return to the golden age of secular humanism is ultimately misguided.
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Keywords: Anthony Kronman; Purpose; meaning; secular humanism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Educational Administration, Baylor University, Waco, USA. 2: Department of Sociology and Social Work, Calvin College, Grand Rapids, USA.

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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