For some time now, the general trend on our nation’s campuses has pointed toward the elimination of traditional core courses in the history and culture of Western civilization, in favor of alternative canons or no requirements at all.
Fortunately, there are exceptions to the rule, and the past few years have seen commendable efforts by professors who have set up programs in the study of Western civilization at their institutions. The American Freedom Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonpolitical organization in California, which, according to its mission, “promotes, defends and upholds Western values and ideals,” has awarded its annual Heroes of Conscience Award to five such courageous professors…
Imagine dredged up some half baked Romantic notions and presented a vision of a world free of conflict. Attached to an ethereal melody it seem to float in a sea of mysticism, painting a picture of a utopia that most Communist leaders in the 1970s would have recognized.
Avi Davis, “What John Lennon Failed to Imagine” (“This Week’s Editorial” from the American Freedom Alliance)
I’m not certain that we can know someone well by knowing their friends, but I find this pairing interesting and, perhaps, symptomatic, as we used to say. On the face of it, this notion of “saving the study of Western Civilization” seems a little loopy. It’s a little like saying that we need to make sure that there are white people on television.
The real problem, of course, isn’t that “the study of Western Civilization” is fading away, it’s that certain things that were once very important to a certain segment of academia, now fading into retirement– Shakespeare is the perennial and tedious example– are not as important to many contemporary academics. Among other things it’s what was once called a “generation gap.”
It’s in this vein that the ACTA fancies itself a guardian of “Western Civilization”– as long as “Western Civilization” means William Shakespeare more than Toni Morrison. “Western Civilization” is often (polite) right-wing short hand for “White dominated American culture.” ACTA prefers the language of the former– the politely coded and euphemistic right– rather than the latter.
They apparently feel real kinship with the less-than-polite right, though, including Avi Davis, who believes that we have to recognize the link between today’s peace movement and John Lennon’s song, which “naïvely” endorses “the notion that we can embrace those sworn to our destruction in a ‘brotherhood of man.’” That’s communism, not “Western Civilization.”
Lennon’s ideal, of course, is Biblical (aka “the second great commandment“), an irony that he could not have missed, even if it escapes Davis, and linked to Gandhi and Martin Luther King, among other half-bakers. Davis, whom the ACTA suggest–sans irony, one supposes– is a “hero of conscious,” calls it “a chimera reflecting nothing more than an irresponsible failure of imagination.”