The Disappearance of Western Civ

Discussion in 'News / Current Events' started by mandym, May 19, 2011.

  1. mandym

    mandym
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    If you happened to attend college back in the day, the term “Western Civilization” was common currency among most undergraduates: it was something you expected to wrestle with, usually during your freshman year. In one way or another, “Western Civ.” covered the intellectual, cultural, artistic, religious and political heritage of European civilization, erected on the twin pillars of Greece and Rome. The American Constitution, of course, was also a direct descendent of this tradition, as even a cursory reading of the Federalist Papers would confirm – you’d understand why the upper chamber in our national legislature was called the Senate, or that the original Republicans had nothing to do with a political party. None of this necessarily excluded the study of other civilizations, needless to say. But there was a settled consensus among America’s educators that all college graduates, irrespective of their major fields of study should know something about the events, personalities and institutions which were largely responsible for such modern hallmarks as liberal political institutions, scientific inquiry or market capitalism, which have shaped and dominated the contemporary world far beyond the confines of Europe and America. One way or another, that’s certainly what most students did.

    How times have changed, as we document in the new National Association of Scholars report, The Vanishing West, 1964-2010, available here. Between 1964 and the present, the study of Western Civilization has literally disappeared from most college curricula. Not only is it not required, you’ve often got to search pretty hard to find individual history courses that tangentially cover bits and pieces of the themes once commonly encountered by most undergraduates. Often enough, you can now collect your very expensive college degree – believe it or not – without studying any history at all. Or if you do take a history course, you’ll often find equal weight apportioned between one that examines US Foreign policy, 1900-1950 or another that analyzes the erotic secrets of antebellum plantation mistresses. The only criterion in most cases seems to be student choice, whether it’s the fall of Rome or the rise of Elvis Presley – take your pick. And whereas the study of history once focused on the game-breaking events, ideas or dominant actors that made a difference, the only thing that seems to matter nowadays is race, gender, class, ethnicity, or the equality of all cultures. In a way it makes things such as Western Civilization a lot easier to understand: it can all be reduced to the “narratives of white men” (you wouldn’t believe how often I ran into that irksome categorization in the process of gathering our data). Think of it: Julius Caesar, Isaac Newton, Ludwig van Beethoven or Groucho Marx all fit in nicely here. If students learn anything at all about Western Civilization these days, it’s likely to be through the lens of oppression, racism, sexism and colonialism. If only I were making this up.

    http://www.mindingthecampus.com/
     
  2. JohnDeereFan

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    I'm going back to school now to finish a degree I left uncompleted years ago. Two semesters, I needed a humanities degree. Since I already have two degrees in history and taught history and Western Civ at both the high school and college levels, I decided that a Western Civ class would be an easy A.

    Other than having to read "The Cheese and the Worms", which I hate with a passion, our Western Civ class was fantastic.
     
  3. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    How true!!!
    "If students learn anything at all about Western Civilization these days, it’s likely to be through the lens of oppression, racism, sexism and colonialism. " How sad.

    America is bad, the rest of the world is good.

    As John Dewey said and many have said over the course of history, if you take over the education, you take over the mind set of the nation and then you take over the nation. For a study on it just look at this country.
     
  4. billwald

    billwald
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    It was the Crusades which started the development of western civilizations because of the resulting import of Muslim culture.
     
  5. StefanM

    StefanM
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    I don't see it as much of a rejection of Western Civilization as the incorporation of global history.

    As billwald alluded, the history of Western civilization involves more than just Greece and Rome.

    You will often find the new courses listed as "World Civilization(s)". This reflects an awareness that events and civilizations do not emerge in isolation.

    Another important idea to remember...our faith is not really "Western," anyway.
     
    #5 StefanM, May 19, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2011

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