Last year, Adam Bellow and I edited a volume of essays entitled The State of the American Mind: 16 Leading Critics on the New Anti-Intellectualism. The contributions varied in subject matter and approach, but one motif ran more or less through them all. It is this: the knowledge and dispositions that characterize a free citizenry are deteriorating. Respect for American history is low, devotion to American institutions has slipped, academic standards have fallen, and ideals of self-reliance and individual freedom have been supplanted by identity politics.

These are just a few of the arguments in the volume. One entry of special interest to First Things readers is Professor Daniel Dreisbach’s “Biblical Literacy Matters,” which documents how central Biblical thinking was in the colonies and the Republic up until the mid-20th century.

Templeton Press has added a new feature to the project, an essay/video contest for high school and college students. The prizes are substantial: winning essays and videos each receive $5,000, while second- and third-place contestants earn $3,000 and $2,000 awards. We are looking at submissions on the following essays in the book:

  • Greg Lukianoff's “How Colleges Create the ‘Expectation of Confirmation'”
  • Jean Twenge's “The Rise of the Self and the Decline of Intellectual and Civic Interest”
  • Ilya Somin's “Political Ignorance in America”

Full guidelines may be found at the link above.

Mark Bauerlein is senior editor at First Things.

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