The Issue at a Glance

The Razor’s Edge (10.1007/s12129-012-9277-8)

Robin Fox, Rutgers University

Today’s liberal democratic societies “are still fragile experiments” that exist “on a razor’s edge.” Robin Fox avers that “far from being natural outcomes of human nature,” they are the “heroic attempts to defy human nature.” Evoking his own “socialization into Western culture in a northern provincial town in [mid-twentieth century] England,” Prof. Fox emphasizes the importance of teaching Western culture, insisting we must do so with openness to avoid repeating or perpetuating “its many and serious flaws” as well as to “defend and preserve” its virtues.

The Great Tradition (10.1007/s12129-011-9266-3)

Eva Brann, St. John’s College, Annapolis

Why should we study the West? “Like most defenses of the obvious,” reflects Eva Brann, this question “is fraught with antitheses. We should study ‘the West’ because it is ours—and everybody’s; because its modes are timely—and timeless; because its concepts explain the ordinary—and model the excellent; because its understanding prognosticates global catastrophes—and provides techniques of salvation; because it spawns huge ugliness—and harbors unsurpassed beauty.” St. John’s longest serving tutor regards Western civilization as an ongoing “conversation” best joined through immersion in a “Great Books” curriculum.

Our Western Heritage: An Interview with Robert George (10.1007/s12129-011-9267-2)

Carol Iannone, Academic Questions

Robert George, Princeton University

“By any standard of measure, the intellectual, moral, religious, political, economic, scientific, technological, artistic, architectural, and literary achievements of the West are extraordinary.” Robert George, founder of Princeton’s celebrated James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, speaks with AQ’s Carol Iannone about why as “inheritors of these achievements” our students deserve and need to study and understand them.

Metamorphosis (10.1007/s12129-012-9275-x)

Stephen H. Balch, Academic Questions

AQ’s Stephen H. Balch argues that American students must study Western civilization to understand the epochal way in which it has transformed the human condition, a set of changes virtually unparalleled in history. For the most part this transformation has been vastly beneficial, but it can only be sustained if education conveys recognition of its singular qualities, because “a civilization unrecognized, or insufficiently recognized by its putative heirs, is a civilization at existential risk.”

Law and Science (10.1007/s12129-011-9268-1)

Toby E. Huff, Harvard University

Toby Huff discusses how the roots of constitutional democracy and justice according to law “are very deeply inscribed in the history of the West,” and comprise “a legacy that ought to be known by all who call themselves educated.” He takes a look at certain legal developments unique to the West that occurred during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries and led to the promotion of political stability and economic growth as well as to the rise of modern science.

A Civilization of Explorers (10.1007/s12129-012-9276-9)

Ricardo Duchesne, University of New Brunswick

The author of The Uniqueness of Western Civilization (Brill, 2011) believes an awareness of the West’s distinctly Faustian spirit that drove so many of its great explorers provides “a great opportunity to ignite interest” in teaching this civilization “beyond the false opposition between an ‘idealized’ and a ‘realistic’ West.” In chronicling the West’s “checkered” history of discovery, Prof. Duchesne argues that “the good ideas and the aggressive acts of the West have grown together inextricably—but they have also developed in a more humane direction.”

Islam as a Civilization (10.1007/s12129-012-9274-y)

Charles E. Butterworth, University of Maryland

“Western civilization would not be as rich as it is today without Arabic and Islamic learning,” maintains Charles E. Butterworth. Among the many contributions Islamic scholars made to the West was an “appreciation of the classical Greek sources to which Westerners had no access for centuries.” Prof. Butterworth also considers the “deep insights into the human condition” the Koran offers, which “accord with, while shedding new light on, tales and personages Christians and Jews have encountered in the revealed writings known to them.” A proposed syllabus for “An Introduction to Arabic and Islamic Culture” is included.

The New Leader of the Free World (10.1007/s12129-011-9270-7)

Kevin D. Williamson, National Review

“On January 20, 2009, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India, became the leader of the free world,” Kevin D. Williams claims, a role “quietly abdicated” by President Barack Obama. He provocatively argues that if Americans “continue to lose confidence in their culture, in their institutions, in their faith, and in their civilization—then the lessons of India will be invaluable when it comes to the project of managing our decline.” Suggestions for further reading are offered.

Monsoon Asia (10.1007/s12129-011-9269-0)

Philip F. Williams, Montana State University

Including general courses on Monsoon Asian civilization in a Great Books or global history curriculum is feasible, Philip F. Williams proposes, and outlines the important works and central values of the region’s great civilizations—China and India—and the “contours of a few such courses with options for individualization.” In “expanding our curricula” to include “the world’s most populous and ancient civilizations that still exist today,” he maintains, “we will better prepare our students to navigate the increasingly multi-polar and interconnected world of the twenty-first century.”

Lessons from the Empire of Writing (10.1007/s12129-012-9273-z)

Cordell D. K. Yee, St. John’s College, Annapolis

Cordell D. K. Yee presents an illustrated lesson in how grasping its subtle traditions of calligraphy is foundational to understanding Chinese culture as a whole. The author provides appendixes that sketch out an introductory course on the Chinese tradition and list detailed suggestions for further reading.

The Wealth of Nations and the Poverty of Analysts (10.1007/s12129-012-9272-0)

Irving Louis Horowitz, Rutgers University

Eminent sociologist Irving Louis Horowitz describes how the research and reporting of certain prominent social scientists on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and “his forty-two years as despotic ruler of Libya” were tainted by their acceptance of financial remuneration—and failure to reveal that reality up-front. “Until a standard of transparency for both ethical and cultural behavior becomes normative,” he convincingly argues, “a cloud of suspicion about academic and journalistic research will pervade the interview process.”

The Contradictions of Contemporary Culture: A Tribute to Norman Jay Levitt (1943–2009) (10.1007/s12129-011-9262-7)

Paul R. Gross, University of Virginia

Celebrating “the powerful mind” of Norman Levitt, his co-author of the seminal exposé of political correctness, Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (1994), Paul R. Gross recalls, “It was that empty class display, along with frequent ignorance of science and reflex hostility to it, that annoyed Levitt—and me.” He adds, “Shared annoyance was the occasion of our first encounter and an eventually long and productive collaboration. Academic Questions figures in the story.”

Conservatism under Academic Scrutiny (10.1007/s12129-011-9271-6)

Gerald Russello, The University Bookman

Gerald Russello takes a look at the growing body scholarship on conservatives and conservatism, and finds widespread unscholarly myopia as well as clear-eyed study.

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