Learning To Love The West


[Recently by John Zmirak: Vatican Smelling The (Turkish) Coffee]

If you have a college bound child and you hope he will be taught about Western civilization, be prepared to choose carefully. Only a few universities will have what you`re looking for.

At most American colleges—including, emphatically, almost all the elite institutions—the curriculum from your undergraduate days has been eviscerated by multiculturalism, careerism, and consumerism.

VDARE.COM readers know about the ideologically driven assault on Western Civilization courses. This attack, which began quietly in the 1970s, became brazen during next decade. The turning point in the struggle is discussed in the educational guide I edit, Choosing the Right College

“Stanford University`s reputation as a leader in both the sciences and the liberal arts diminished when it abandoned its Western civilization requirement in 1987 after a storm of student protest led by Jesse Jackson (“Hey ho, hey ho, Western Civ has got to go”). These events, considered by some critics to mark the coming-of-age of academic political correctness, placed Stanford at the center of a two-decade-long nationwide movement that has virtually removed the systematic study of Western civilization from college campuses across the country.

According to a survey conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, only three of the top fifty-five schools in America—Columbia, Colgate, and the University of the South—require a specific course in Western civilization. None of the schools requires a course in American history…

“Today, instead of Western civilization Stanford requires courses in world cultures, American cultures, or gender studies. Perhaps as a result, Stanford students have turned away from the liberal arts towards technical fields such as computer science and engineering.”

In less than 20 years, the noble aspiration of American educators to provide for the many a classically infused education once available only to the few was casually abandoned.

Ironically, the historically black colleges such as Morehouse and Spelman were slow to embrace the new educational nihilism. Founded to help lift up the black community, these schools have clung to more elements of the traditional core curriculum than white schools.

You can still find serious core curricula—which cover the roots of Western civilization in Greece and Rome—at Columbia University and the University of Chicago. To their credit, they have maintained most elements of their core programs in Western humanities—an amazing achievement for Columbia, which was throughout the period of student unrest the locus for far-left activism.

Another secular school that provides a serious grounding in Western civilization are St. John`s College in Maryland and New Mexico, a “great books” school which turns out some of the best-educated B.A. students in the U.S.

Religious institutions also offer students courses in the arts, letters, history and Western philosophy. Among Protestant schools, both Wheaton and Calvin College offer admirable curricula steeped in the old “Protestant humanism” practiced by such great thinkers as Melancthon, Cranmer, Luther, and John Calvin.

St. Olaf`s College in Minnesota, a school sponsored by the increasingly leftist Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, still maintains a worthy core program which ensures that its graduates understand theological tradition.

Among Catholic schools, the most impressive Western studies programs are at Thomas Aquinas College in California, the University of Dallas, Thomas More College in New Hampshire, and Christendom College in Virginia. Campion College in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., offers a two-year program that focuses on the Western liberal arts and humanities.

Strong Western culture studies survive at some of the old-line Catholic schools, such as Gonzaga University in Washington, Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and Providence College in Rhode Island.

Your child doesn`t have to attend Columbia or a religious school to get a traditional liberal arts education. If you`re willing to help your student plan his curriculum, you can still find solid courses covering the fundamentals of Western philosophy, history, literature and art.

You`ll want to avoid the heaps of shiny junk and gobs of multicultural goo—courses in Chicano Studies, Lesbian Parenting, Immigrant Advocacy, and Anti-Colonialist Propaganda, where professors are more than happy to browbeat, brainwash, and punitively grade students who don`t toe their anti-Western line. To guide your prospective scholar, you`ll have to spend some time (on top of all that money):

  • Look up the course listings for the college, and select a list of worthy classes. In Choosing the Right College, we have compiled “self-service” curricula for over 120 American schools, along with lists of worthy professors. We also name the departments to avoid.

  • We recommend that every student take at least one class in one of the following subjects:

1) Greek or Latin literature in translation;

2) Ancient philosophy;

3) The Bible;

4) Medieval or Church history;

5) Early modern political philosophy;

6) Shakespeare;

7) Early American history; and

8) Modern intellectual history.

For my rationale in choosing these courses, read the free, downloadable book A Student`s Guide to the Core Curriculum. [PDF]

You can compile such a curriculum yourself by browsing the Web sites of relevant departments, and  Googling the names of professors—to see which ones have been the subject of complaints about political correctness or intolerance (for instance, in campus “alternative” newspapers).

At one end of the cost spectrum, you can find a classical Western civilization education at Yale (of all places) in its “Directed Studies” program, an elite school-within-a-school for which entering freshman must apply by essay.

At the opposite end, you can get a similar education for one-fourth the cost at Louisiana State University by enrolling in its Honors Program staffed by Ivy League graduates.

Look skeptically at schools with mandatory multicultural courses—for example, Bowdoin College, Bucknell University, Haverford College, and Ohio State University.

If you`re concerned about speech codes and other assaults on free expression, search the case files of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education [FIRE], which conducts legal defenses for dozens of students annually.

Finally, you might accompany your child on a visit to the campus while classes are in session. Drop by the history, English, or political science department to get a feel for the place. See what kind of fliers professors hang on their doors, and what kind of student events are advertised on bulletin boards.

Do they all reflect a monotonous, uniformly post-modern leftist sensibility? Contact the conservative newspaper or organization on campus and ask the chairman out to lunch.

Do the same  “due diligence” you`d undertake for any other investment of $20,000-$80,000, when you determine in which atmosphere you want your child to form the mental habits and preconceptions which he will carry through adulthood.

If you want the fruit of your loins to love your civilization, you`ll have to get involved in passing it along.

John Zmirak [email him] is editor of Choosing the Right College.