“The Evil West and the Innocent Rest”

Kali Jerrard

CounterCurrent: Week of 02/19/2024

Higher education legislation has been on the brain, and understandably so. 

With states like Iowa and Utah joining the fight for the future of education, it is hard to ignore the growing movement to preserve an appreciation and understanding of Western civilization. Even South Dakota has proposed legislation, even if it falls short of fully reforming civics education.

There is much to say regarding these pieces of legislation, but we will focus on just one—Utah’s Senate Bill 226 (SB 226). 

The basic gist of the bill is that it establishes an independent school of general education which, as Stanley Kurtz puts it, will be “charged with designing and teaching a set of courses that all students must take in order to graduate.” He goes on to say, “Instead of the usual smorgasbord of hundreds of hyper-specialized courses that students choose from in order to fulfill their general-education requirements, UU students will take classes that cover the basics of Western and American history—and that introduce them to non-Western cultures as well.” 

This bill effectively establishes a solid core curriculum filled with Western civilization, American history and government, mathematics, and science instruction, which will be a bulwark against far-left indoctrination attempts. 

In addition, the school of general education will appoint a dean who can hire faculty committed to the pursuit of excellence and an appreciation of traditional values and Western civilization instruction—as opposed to diversity, critical race theory, and cherry-picked history instruction pervading classrooms. “The real problem with higher education is that trustees and legislators have ceded their control over the general-education curriculum to a faculty driven by political motives,” Kurtz says. SB 226 will decentralize administrative control at colleges and universities by reversing this chain of control.

Should it pass, it will be effective at removing deeply rooted anti-civilization sentiment present in academia. Kurtz’s assessment is worth a full reading, as he dives into the legislative background and compares SB 226 to other similar pieces of legislation. 

At its core, SB 226 aims to root out the “bittersweet” vine in higher education, i.e., intense hatred of Western civilization, according to Peter Wood’s analysis. This hatred “is an invasive idea that once ensconced in the classroom strangles every other idea in the minds of many students. It reduces the world into a neat division between the Evil West and the Innocent Rest. In this arrangement, the latter maintain their innocence no matter what they do.” 

Why SB 226 matters is simple. If we forget, or spit on our past—as far-left activists are oft to do—American culture and society crumbles. That’s been true throughout history. Erasure does not change the good, the bad, and the ugly of the world. Wood astutely notes that those who sneer at the tenets of Western culture and its history are the ones who have established dominance over the college classroom. 

Their primary teaching is that Western civilization is a terrible thing, but its terrors can only be seen clearly by those who have learned how to see through the illusions by which it shields itself from critical examination. The purpose of higher education, in this view, is literally to dis-illusion students. They need to acquire sufficient cynicism to free themselves from Western civilization’s constant efforts to raise itself up as good. “Wokeness” is acquired by spitting at those efforts.

In this way, the “uncivilized” have craftily taken control of academia. To rebalance the narrative will take more than Utah SB 226. But it is a start. 

Until next week.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by the NAS Staff. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Photo by Birmingham Museums Trust on Unsplash

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