]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]      "WESTERN CULTURE'S GOT TO GO"     [[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
                      by Natalie and Gerald Sirkin         (1/2/1989)
(Gerald Sirkin studied economics at Harvard College and Columbia University 
and taught it at Yale University and The City College of The City 
University of New York.  Dr. and Mrs. Sirkin have a regular column in the 
CITIZEN NEWS of New Fairfield, Connecticut. They are AtE subscriubers.)

                [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 06784LOEB]

    You have inherited an asset of incalculable value.  You may not be 
aware of that inheritance, but it is what permits you to live in a country 
where justice, liberty, and generosity are the guiding lights, where 
democracy works, where a productive economy provides material well-being 
and the expectation of ever more.
    Your inheritance has come to you by way of ancient Greece, Rome, and 
the renaissance of Western Europe, particularly England.  It is what we 
call "Western culture."  It is the ideas, attitudes, and values, developed 
over centuries, that make us different from people in many other parts of 
the world whose unfortunate citizens in great numbers seek to enter our 
country, legally and illegally.
    Western culture is not transmitted through the genes.  It has to be 
taught to each succeeding generation.  To transmit this heritage, we 
depend on our schools and colleges.
    Never has a public trust been more misplaced.
    We are reminded of the rupturing of our cultural pipeline by the 
current debate over curricular changes at Stanford University.
    In a speech at Stanford on April 18, Secretary of Education William J. 
Bennett blasted that University for scrapping its basic course, "Western 
Thought," which has been required for all freshmen.  
    The "Western Thought" course was introduced in 1980.  It was a step 
toward rebuilding the worthy curriculum that was trashed in the 1960s and 
'70s at the hands of nihilistic students and deranged faculty.  The course 
consisted of the study of great books that are the landmarks in the long 
development of Western culture.
    "Western Thought" from its inception became the target of a small but 
loud gang of protesters.  Their chant in a demonstration last year, led by 
Rev. Jesse Jackson--
              "Hey, hey, ho, ho, 
              Western culture's got to go!"--
tells us what they are and what they want.  Their ostensible objection to 
the course is that white males are overrepresented in the reading list 
while women, blacks, American Indians, Hispanics etc. are omitted.
    The Stanford Faculty Senate voted 39-4 with 5 abstentions to gut 
"Western Thought."  Nine of the 15 required books and all 18 "highly rec- 
ommended" books are dropped, to be replaced by "works by women, minorities 
and persons of color."  Whatever may be the proper role of such books in 
education, they are no substitute for the great classics that are the 
foundation stones of our culture.  Choosing books by authors' gender or 
ethnic category rather than by the books' quality ought to embarrass all 
    The name of the course is changed from "Western Thought" to "Culture, 
Ideas, and Values."  The Senate voted to drop "Western" from the course 
description as "inappropriate," "anachronistic," "provincial," and "be- 
cause of its symbolic significance." 
    Class discussion (in each quarter of the academic year) is to include 
"substantial attention to" issues of class, race, and gender." The course 
will be supervised by three students and eight to ten faculty members. 
    The Stanford Senate's action was not an educational but a political 
decision.  In Secretary Bennett's words, "A great university was brought 
low by the very forces which modern universities come into being to op- 
pose--ignorance, irrationality and intimidation."
    True to form in answering Secretary Bennett was Stanford University 
President Donald Kennedy, who has appeared feeble of mind and character in 
previous radical campaigns.  They include the so-far unsuccessful attempt 
to divorce Stanford from the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and 
Peace; and the successful campaign to prevent the Reagan presidential li- 
brary from locating at Stanford (which would also have put the University 
in electronic contact with all presidential libraries around the country).
    President Kennedy, who had welcomed the change as "a significant im- 
provement," appeared bothered chiefly by Bennett's charge that the Univer- 
sity had been "intimidated."  Actually, the disgraceful behavior of the 
faculty and administration would be less disheartening if it could be ex- 
plained by intimidation.  The other explanations--ignorance and irration-  
ality--are far more destructive of a university than cowardice.

    If Stanford were the exception, we doubt that Secretary Bennett would 
have bothered to denounce it.  One termite is not going to bring down your 
house.  One rotting university is not going to bring down Western civili- 
zation.  But when you see one termite, you can be sure there are more.  
The Stanford disease permeates our university system.
    Dartmouth recently made headlines for its prosecution and persecution 
of students who dared to publish a criticism of a rubbishy course of a 
black professor.  That episode was only the latest in a series of punitive 
strikes at students who challenge Dartmouth's ultra-left faculty and ad- 
    At The City College of New York, another of our many festering insti- 
tutions, fascinating examples of rot have transpired.  College President  
Bernard W. Harleston wrote the Department of English last November 10 com- 
plaining about a line in its newspaper advertisement of a scholarship to 
study English literature-- "ONLY THE BEST NEED APPLY."
    Wrote President Harleston, "For a variety of reasons, I find this 
statement inappropriate, insensitive, and inconsistent with the policies 
of the City College of New York.  I do not want to see such a formulation 
within any future ads from City."
    "Insensitive" to whom, we wonder.  Mediocrities and incompetents?  
"Inconsistent" with what policies?  To encourage and support mediocrities 
and incompetents?  The answer, we fear, is that the ingrained racism of 
black President Harleston leads him to believe that black students cannot 
be "the best," so scholarships for "the best" are insensitive to blacks.  
This kind of insult to blacks and to education is now orthodox college 
    The education produced by the Harlestons of this country was described 
by a courageous student who attended a course in the Black Studies program 
and reported on it in a City College student newspaper, THE CAMPUS, on 
April 15.  The professor, in the limited time available between his fre- 
quent absences and the ten-to-twenty minutes left by his late arrivals, 
told the class about the biological inferiority of whites and how the 
space shuttle's blowing up was probably the best thing to happen to Amer- 
ica in a long time because the space program needs something to slow it 
down before white people start spreading their filth throughout the uni- 
    "What do you think we should do about the white people?" asked a stu- 
dent during a particularly virulent attack by the professor on the "white 
value system."
    "If I had my way," said the professor, "I'd wipe them off the face of 
the earth."  
    And so it goes in higher education.  
    Hey, hey, ho, hum, wait till you see the culture to come.

            Copyright, N & G Sirkin, Sherman, Connecticut, 1988

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