As the first chapter to Part 2: The Excess of Postmodern Pluralism, Chapter 4, “What Ever Happened to Critical Thinking?” really dives into Lazere's critique of current academic discourse, especially the ways it is treated in composition courses. Specifically, Lazere argued that a stronger focus on personal experience and discourse has isolated composition and rhetoric, as a field, from the larger culture of the university and the public (p. 70). He concluded his initial critique-based chapter by reiterating that the disconnect between academic and civic writing in most pedagogy results from the greater focus on a student’s personal writing, rather than tasking them with analyzing the works of others (p. 85).
Similar to the preceding chapter, Chapter 5, “Degrees of Separation from Academic Discourse” began and remained grounded in the critique of pluralist scholars. Joseph Harris and his theories concerning the role and structure of academic discourse, though, serve as the focus this time around as Lazere argued “Harris’s diminishing of academic discourse simultaneously diminishes the role of politics in writing” (p. 91). Postmodernists, he noted, may root their theories in good intentions, but the vagueness of their language and the ambiguity of their applications limit their successful implementations in the classroom.
Rather than starting Chapter 6, “Down with ‘Clear, Logical Prose?’ Ceding Reason to Conservatives” with critiques of other progressives, Lazere addressed Lynn Cheney’s anti-politicizing of first-year composition by focusing on a more explicit focus on structure and grammar, rather than critical thinking (p. 110), to which he responded
I believe above all that we on the left need persistently to employ logic to refute such self-contradictions and other logical fallacies in conservative political and corporate propaganda. But discussions about logic are bedeviled by equivocal definitions, self-contradictions, and inconsistencies by those on both the right and left. (p. 111)
Furthermore, if students do not ground their writings and arguments in a more universally recognized structure, Lazere argued that the instructor can encounter difficulties determining if the student writer is “confused or lazy about what they mean to say, are of unsound mind, or even faking it” (p. 127).
Keeping to his critique-focused structure from previous chapters in Part 2, Lazere focused Chapter 7, “Bartholomae and Petrosky’s Depoliticized Ways of Reading” on unpacking the shortcomings he recognizes in David Bartholomae’s work Writing on the Margins (2005) and Barthomae & Anthony Petrosky’s Facts, Artifacts, and Counterfacts and Ways of Reading: Theory and Method for a Reading and Writing Course. In doing so, he directly critiqued the Pittsburgh School by writing,
Neither Bartholomae nor any of the other theorists I have discussed from what might be called from the Pittsburgh School devote any sustained attention to factual ignorance, fallacious reasoning, or political prejudices in student reading. Nor do any of them consider the need for a foundational study of critical thinking to provide a framework for students in evaluating readings and analyzing arguments. (p. 137)
Turning his focus from critique to consequences, Lazere opened Chapter 8, “Acting Logically, Thinking Logically: The Shrinking of the Public Sphere,” by suggesting that though multiculturalism and localism (often championed by scholars like Bruce Horner and Min-Zhan Lu, as well as Joseph Harris) are rooted in progressive values and goals, they have consequences that serve conservative aims (p. 152). More specifically, he argued that the “romanticizing of local cultures” prevents students from culturally isolated areas from pursuing “an avenue toward decentering their ethnocentric prejudices.” With postmodernism’s focus and respect for the local, more conservative students will feel empowered to further their home-grown “provincial bigotry” (p. 155).
In Chapter 9, “The Resistance to National Standards: Common Core State Standards as the Perfect Storm,” the final chapter of Part 2, Lazere initially argued that pluralism, though advocating for radically different pedagogies, has contributed to the development of national standards. Unlike many today, Lazere considers the Common Core State Standards beneficial to students and instructors alike, as its objectives value critical thinking in a way that closely aligns with his models. With Common Core remaining a controversial issue in American education, Lazere concluded Part 2 by warning that if the standards were to be repealed, “it will likely doom any future movement for critical thinking, civic literacy, and everything else praiseworthy in it” (p. 180).