Not so long ago, conservative intellectuals such as William F. Buckley Jr. believed universities were worth fighting for. Today, conservatives seem more inclined to burn them down. In Let’s Be Reasonable, conservative political theorist and professor Jonathan Marks finds in liberal education an antidote to this despair, arguing that the true purpose of college is to encourage people to be reasonable—and revealing why the health of our democracy is at stake.
Drawing on the ideas of John Locke and other thinkers, Marks presents the case for why, now more than ever, conservatives must not give up on higher education. He recognizes that professors and administrators frequently adopt the language and priorities of the left, but he explains why conservative nightmare visions of liberal persecution and indoctrination bear little resemblance to what actually goes on in college classrooms. Marks examines why advocates for liberal education struggle to offer a coherent defense of themselves against their conservative critics, and demonstrates why such a defense must rest on the cultivation of reason and of pride in being reasonable.
More than just a campus battlefield guide, Let’s Be Reasonable recovers what is truly liberal about liberal education—the ability to reason for oneself and with others—and shows why the liberally educated person considers reason to be more than just a tool for scoring political points.
Awards and Recognition
- One of The Wall Street Journal's Best of the February Bookshelf
"An engaging apologia for liberal education. . . . [Marks] blends humor with argument as he makes his case for a renewed vision of higher learning."—John J. Miller, Wall Street Journal
"Marks’s vision of a newly energized liberal education is appealing, and Let’s Be Reasonable is an important and timely book. Blending anecdote and theory in a superb accessible style, Marks comes across as the professor we all wish we had: the one who gets students excited about Plato or Rousseau, who challenges them to think more deeply and often gets them to meet that challenge."—Andrew Pessin, Commentary
"Instead of attempting to rule our opponents out of line, we might try reasoning with them. Thankfully [Let’s Be Reasonable] explains and models how to do it"—Damon Linker, The Week
"A thoughtful . . . contribution to debates about the value of higher education."—Kirkus Reviews
"Jonathan Marks’s Let’s Be Reasonable: A Conservative Case for Liberal Education shows what higher education can be at its best. . . . Marks shows why academic freedom is worth fighting for – he documents what a liberal education can do."—Kenneth S. Stern, The Times of Israel
"An important and timely book that should interest anyone, left, right, or center, concerned about higher education in general and the campus anti-Israel movement in particular. Let’s Be Reasonable is indeed a calming voice of reason amidst the frenetic shouting occurring both on and about campuses. Blending anecdote and theory in a superb and accessible style . . . Marks comes across as the professor we all wish we had."—Andrew Pessin, Times of Israel
"Let’s Be Reasonable: A Conservative Case for Liberal Education is, indeed, a reasonable book. . . . Everyone needs to be exposed to his ideas on higher education’s ultimate purpose."—Jay Schalin, The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
"Marks’s dual status as both a man of the right and a longtime academic positions him well to argue that universities must commit themselves more fully to the task of shaping reasonable people and that, despite their present flaws, all is not lost. Marks can speak both to university insiders and to their outside (often right-leaning) critics."—Thomas Koenig, The Bulwark
"In straddling both sides of the debate, Marks has his work cut out for him. It’s a tribute to his wit, good sense, and, indeed, reasonableness that he largely succeeds. . . . Marks’ hopeful argument is a timely rebuttal to the kind of scorched-earth conservatism now ascendant on the intellectual right."—Richard Aldous, American Purpose
"Let’s Be Reasonable offers an incisive analysis of the terrain of the contemporary American university, one that anyone interested in understanding higher education should read."—Jenna Silber Storey, Society
"Marked by good humor, engaging anecdotes, and reassuring evidence that all is not lost in higher education.
"—Matthew Stewart, University Bookman
"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