Friday, January 27, 2012

Bye Bye, Western Civilization

I’ve mentioned the decline of the liberal arts in our universities on these pages in the past. Lately, I have noticed that articles from The American Scholar to The New Republic to the blogosphere have been focusing on the same subject. Each year, more universities dump entirely the lower division undergraduate requirement of the core study most often called “Western Civilization.”

Stanford dumped it years ago. UC Berkeley makes it one part of many in the history department. The Ivies, and now most mid-level public and private universities are following suit. Hanging their hats on multiculturalism and the “melting pot” of today’s America, the schools have followed the course set by radical leftists, sociologists, race-baiters and one-worlders. In doing so, the universities have made it nearly impossible for students to comprehend or embrace the concept of American exceptionalism. Barack Obama, the leader of America and the West, is a product of that type of ignorance.

Back in 1987, Rev. Jesse Jackson led protestors at Stanford University demanding the end of “ethnocentric” Western Civilization instruction to be replaced with that god of the divisive left—diversity. No accommodation or modification was going to be allowed. Jackson led the chants of “hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Culture’s got to go.” The Stanford administration complied without complaint. That’s the same administration which had earlier dropped the appellation for the school’s sports teams, the Stanford Indians, and changed it to the meaningless Stanford Cardinal (it refers to the color, not the bird).

It seems that proudly naming your teams after the iconic Native Americans is mysteriously racist and insensitive. That same year, Esquire Magazine ran a cover with a picture of the aged Indian who had served as the school’s emblem sitting in the stands at Stanford Field. He was the only one in the stands, wearing full warrior headdress, with a barely visible tear falling from one eye. In the article, he asked “what did I do wrong?” He didn’t realize he had done nothing wrong, it was those oppressive white administrators who were exploiting him who were doing wrong.

The National Association of Scholars recently released a formal paper entitled The Vanishing West: 1964 to 2010.” The paper lays out the rapid disappearance of the Western Civilization curriculum from nearly every major higher education institution. And the scholars aren’t happy about it. The Black Power movement of the 60s had obtained its own Black Studies curriculum (starting with San Francisco State University), and it quickly became time for every other racial and ethnic movement to have its own department. Suddenly, the study of obscure tribes in Africa or Asia became as important as the study of the Greek scholars, or the writers of the Renaissance, or the Humanists, or St. Thomas Aquinas, or (particularly) America’s Enlightenment Founders.

What pieces of the Western Civilization core curriculum remained were taken over by flower children and former members of the Weather Underground, resulting in a rump Western Civ discipline which became “grim and gloomy” as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Lynne Cheney of the National Endowment for the Humanities has a long record of damning the whole misplaced emphasis on everything except the successes (and failures) of Western culture. Said Cheney in 1994: “Imagine an outline for teaching American history [within today’s academic parameters] in which George Washington makes only a fleeting appearance and is never described as our first President. Or in which the founding of the Sierra Club and the National Organization for Women are considered noteworthy events, but the first gathering of the US Congress is not.”

The problem is that you don’t have to imagine it anymore. Take a look at the current nonsense that has replaced Western Civilization in higher learning. Most of the courses replace traditional Western Civ courses previously required at major universities and old-fashioned liberal arts colleges. The operative word is “replace” rather than “augment.” I won’t even try to list the silliness. Just grab the catalog from your favorite university and check out the wealth of non-Western Civilization courses being offered in place of traditional studies of Greece, Rome, Great Britain, France, and of course, the United States. The Civil War must now compete with the Cultural Phenomenon of Lady Gaga, the Zen of Keanu Reeves, and urban/hip hop culture, and the Civil War is losing.

No wonder ignorant “Occupiers” think that the Constitution is an obsolete document written by old white men impeding social progress. Without a basic understanding of the workings of Western culture and its evolution into modernity, they can’t possibly comprehend the exquisite balancing act done by the Founding Fathers in creating a unique form of government with checks and balances, a voice for the people, and the protection of ordered liberty.

Without that study of the Western development of democratic institutions, self-government, art, science and universal education, the “Occupiers” can’t possibly understand the reasons behind the American Revolution. Most of them claim to understand, but in fact just get everything wrong. Instead of a Revolution for freedom and self-government, they judge the appropriate reason to oppose the powers-that-be in terms of what Abbie Hoffman called “revolution for the hell of it.”

28 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

This makes me wonder if we conservatives have only ourselves to blame. I have long since given up giving money to my undergraduate school because of just the kind of change of focus you suggest. Somehow, we have let leftists take over and dominate our educational institutions as well as the media. As you say, it is no wonder we are churning out little socialists in our society.

T-Rav said...

This is disgusting. My undergraduate institution still requires Western Civ, thankfully, but we're probably in the minority by now.

Having accumulated a number of textbooks by now from my TA duties, it's clear that what's left of the discipline is corroded by multiculturalism and the other crap. Take the French Revolution. It's no longer important that the "Declaration of the Rights of Man" be closely examined, or that students understand the Jacobin descent into state terrorism; instead we get to read about how Haitians responded with their own revolution, and how the Revolution did or did not "provide a discourse" for women to fight for their own rights. Whatever. If I ever get to teach my own college class, I am not using a textbook.

StanH said...

"The Constitution” a binding contract from the Founders to the future.

I use that phrase in my description on my avatar. In my mind there is nothing more important for an American of any color or creed. Through this divinely inspired document emanates all of our freedoms. Those who defile and malign this providential piece of parchment, do so with it’s express permission. I my mind “The Constitution and The Bill of Rights,” are the culmination of brilliant men who knew the past, as too build a bridge to the future, the pinnacle of Western Civilization, the greatest country since the dawning of civilization, the USA.

TJ said...

There was a proposal in NC last year that would revise what 11th graders learn in history class. Instead of teaching from the founding of America and going foward from there, they would be teaching from 1877 forward. Since we homeschool our kids, I don't know if this ever went through. It concerns me that they would even consider something like this and it shows what lengths they are willing to go to to diminish this great country.

Patriot said...

I really don't mind that colleges/universities teach "other" disciplines instead of solely Western Civilization. Just label them as such and continue to offer (and require) that as part of a liberal arts education in America that Western Civ 101 and 201 are required courses to past. If students want to take other multi-culti courses, then that's fine...offer them...but don't do away with Western Civ and make alternate history the requirement.

The pernicious (and intentional) dumbing down of the American population is almost complete. When Queer Studies or Womyn's Studies compete for scarce education dollars with the politically incorrect Western Civ (the "classics") we know which way administrators are going to go. Students too will take these "easy" courses where a good grade is guaranteed rather than hard ones where you have to actually remember and apply important events in Western Civilization.

I would love to see the data on students who took Latin as a second language versus those that took Spanish, and see which group became more successful in life, based on education level and the generally accepted measures of success.

I know that the above is not expressly related to Western Civ, but it is as we need to understand why Latin is so important historically in Western Civ cultures. If it is not, then let's all learn the clicks and chirps of African Bushmen then. It would suffice the language requirement for a language to graduate!

tryanmax said...

Jed, if conservatives are partly to blame, it is because for as long as I can remember, the most prominent conservatives have always pooh-poohed academia as the "white walled ivory tower" that right-thinking individuals should pay no heed of. I suspect such talk was going on well before I was born.

The same can be said of conservative attitudes toward the arts and entertainment industries. "Pooh-pooh, that is what hippie liberals do instead of work." It is no exaggeration to say that I almost felt guilty for pursuing graphic design as a career. (But not quite, or I wouldn't've.)

Of course, the results of this attitude are embarrassingly clear. Now conservatism has little foothold in the realms of education, entertainment, etc. I applaud this site and BigHollywood for doing their part to remedy this ill.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: I know how you feel. I have canceled my membership in the Cal Alumni Association off and on. I get angry, cancel, then a year or two later feel guilty about it and re-join. At least now the alumni scholarship program allows us to earmark for certain more traditional programs.

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: It's good to hear a few schools have still retained the curriculum. My older daughter went to Cal State Northridge and my son to UCLA while they still had the Western Civ requirement. They had cut it to the bone by the time my younger daughter reached college age, so I sent her to Cal Lutheran.

I truly understand what you mean about what is left of the curriculum being tainted by leftist revisionism. They tend to define more recent Western history as colonialism and slavery without any balance. Then there's the race, ethnicity, and gender thing. Sample courses at Cal, UCLA and the state university curriculum: comparative colonialism, gender and sexuality and the Western experience, law and society, urban history, Africa and the Diaspora, American sexual histories, and the piece de resistance, Elvis, Dylan and Postwar America.

LawHawkRFD said...

Stan: But binding contracts from the past written by old white men in wigs restrict the government's need to keep up with the times. Just ask Barack Obama.

LawHawkRFD said...

TJ: Cutting out the pre-Civil War history of America is absolutely necessary if the left is going to retain control of academia. Kids in lower and middle education might like what the Founders had to say, particularly the part about the right to think for themselves and express their thoughts publicly.

Tennessee Jed said...

Tryanmax - I agree with you totally. Hawk - Earmarks!! That's not a bad idea. If individuals were permitted to earmark our tax dollars, wouldn't that make for an interesting film! :)

LawHawkRFD said...

Patriot: Except for those really silly courses I was talking about (such as the Zen of Keanu Reeves), all those other disciplines were part and parcel of a well-rounded university curriculum. Basically, we're talking about the core curriculum of Western Civilization. For every core course I took at Berkeley, there were literally dozens of classes teaching other cultures and in-depth classes on smaller facets of Western civilization. But without the core curriculum of Western Civilization, the other courses can't be put into perspective. A student who has been taught the history of Rome, the development of law, and the effects of a "universal" language can understand how it relates to the rise of the Chin and Ming dynasties in China or the differences from the Persian empire. Without the core curriculum, the student is not afforded a full understanding of how his own Western nation is similar or different from those other societies. How the Constitution became the document governing America, but was never developed in Africa or Asia can't be understood without the core curriculum of Western Civilization. It amounts to "learn your own civilization first, then compare and contrast it to all the others."

As for learning Latin versus learning Spanish, the former teaches both a language and a discipline, the latter merely teaches another language. Ditto for "clicks and chirps."

T-Rav said...

Speaking of silly courses, here are a couple of the newer gems being offered at Hah-vahd:

Scandinavian 102: Trolls, Trolldom and the Uses of Tradition

Examines Scandinavian folklore and folk life, with an emphasis on narratives, supernatural beliefs, and material culture from the 17th to the early 20th centuries, and the anti-colonial and nation-building uses of these traditions.

Visual and Environmental Studies 80: Loitering: Studio Course

You will hang out in the vicinity of culture and make things in response to it. This class is not thematic or linked to any particular discipline.
Note: No previous studio experience necessary.

And you were worried higher ed is going down the drain!

DCAlleyKat said...

And this is how you make sheeple out of people...

LawHawkRFD said...

tyranmax: I've always considered conservatism to be embodied by William F. Buckley, ever since he wrote God and Man at Yale. The anti-intellectualism of a large part of the conservative movement is based more on mistaken populism than genuine conservatism. In my progress from New Left radicalism to conservatism, Bill Buckley always stood as the example of how to be a conservative without being a reactionary. The group we hold most dear, the Founding Fathers, was comprised almost entirely of highly-educated men, even when many of them were self-educated. Conservatives need to remember that.

Thanks for your kind comment, and we will continue to try to promote the concept that "smart, educated, knowledgeable, and conservative" are not mutually exclusive terms.

tryanmax said...

I can see how Trolls and Trolldom might be useful in a program on internet studies.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: Somehow earmarks in politics always go awry. But if the people who pay the taxes got to choose the earmarks, we might get a whole different result.

LawHawkRFD said...

DCAlleyKat: And let's not forget that the Greeks called those who didn't speak Greek "barbarians." The base for that word is that the Greeks considered those languages to be based on the "bah-bah" of bleating sheep. I learned that in my core Western Civilization courses. LOL

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: I took a class in medieval magic and mysticism (OK, I was bored). It was really interesting, but it was still tied to basic history, philosophy, even science. Some things I've noticed about a lot of the courses being taught today, is that the disciplines have no discipline, they often have no relation to any other course of study, and their is damned little education going on in the education.

AndrewPrice said...

This is what happens when something like education is abandoned to liberals to so long.

LawHawkRFD said...

tryanmax: It's very clear to me that in our rigid ethnocentrism we have entirely ignored the Kingdom of the Trolls. We have dissed one of the most important groups on the Internet.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I think it may even be worse than that. More of my Berkeley professors were liberal than conservative by a good-sized margin. But we still heard both sides, and we were allowed to question and disagree. Today's professors tend to be far more radical, far more rigid, and far less tolerant of dissent. They tend to come from the group from my generation that didn't question and didn't dissent against leftist teaching. Our Free Speech movement turned into the Free Speech for Leftists Only movement. The most radical of the leaders morphed into the professors of today. William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, anyone?

Patti said...

those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it...

and here's hoping your assistant recovers quickly.

rlaWTX said...

I was luck to have an awesome Western Civ prof. He'd just talk for an hour and a half. His stuff was all the info that doesn't make it into the book. The fact that his tests were over the reading drove classmates crazy, but I loved his classes.

This semester I am talking a counseling skills class. One of the books is entirely about multicultural counseling. I was ready to be thoroughly offended. However, it does make a very good point about the actual cultural impact on people - how they react to certain ideas, what won't make sense to them, family structure, etc - and how counselors need to be aware of these. So, I wasn't totally annoyed. BUT! It also address the need for "cultural relevance" = all cultures are worthy of respect. Which initially is OK, but drifts mightily into "cultural equality". I'm sure that we'll get into the social justice jazz too. I figure I'll just learn it all and figure out how it applies (or doesn't) to me later on... There are more idiocies my fellow students have adopted, but I'll just shake my head and pray for the future of the human race...

Individualist said...

Lawhawk

For a great many years my father was a Math teacher at a community college, then became a chariman of the math department, a dean, and executive vice president and before he retired President.

The college used SAT scores to determine if students were required to to remedial classes. There was always this complaint that the tests were somehow racially biased asking questions minorities had no experience with.

The example they gave was (blank) is to Patents as Interest is to mortgages. Somehow if you were not white you would not be exposed to these concepts.

My Dad always rejected their arguments and he used this to prove them wrong. He said why is it then that should you take the pure math sections of the SAT (then ones with numbers and no word problems) the students do equally worse or well as the rest of the test on average. He would tell them since one cannot place a subjective bias on a number then this suggests your argument has no weight.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: Santayana had it right--too bad the professors and their students don't understand that concept.

Kelly says "thank you." She had a urinary tract blockage. A little treatment, 2 weeks of forcing her to take a pill, and she'll be back in fighting trim.

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaTWX: There's nothing wrong with cultural sensitivity, it's just good manners. But people with thin skins need to know the difference between an unwitting and innocent remark and a racial insult. Even back in the dark ages when I took a sociology class, we studied "relative deprivation." I was ready for proto-diversity garbage, but the class turned out to be very enlightening, concentrating largely on what "common sense" and "received wisdom" mean to different cultures.

I have to be absolutely honest in saying that I do not believe that all cultures deserve respect. I can think of a few that need a good kick in the arse to teach them respect.

LawHawkRFD said...

Indi: A good professor can have fun with doing that. At Berkeley there was a professional note-taking company called "FyBates." They audited all the big lecture classes and prepared rather detailed notes to be purchased later by the students. Some of the professors got wise to it, and told the classes that they would review the FyBates packages, and ask as many questions as possible on exams about the things FyBates missed. It meant that for those of us who survived, we had to attend the lectures, take good notes, and read the assigned texts very carefully.

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