How does traditional American culture and Western civilization fare on your campus? What are some of the obstacles or difficulties a traditionalist, conservative, or libertarian might find on your campus? What can you tell us about the aesthetics of everyday life on your campus, from dating and sex, to dress and tastes, to behavior and mores? NAS asked 8 undergraduate college students these questions for a student symposium in the forthcoming "Student Culture " issue of Academic Questions (vol. 23, no. 2). We left it up to each respondent to choose which question to answer and how to answer it. The students' essays are the following: Beneath the Rungs: Locating the Liberal Arts at Harvard by Brian Bolduc From Raging to Engaging at Vanderbilt by Mary Frances Boyle Catholic or Bust? The Spirit of Inclusion at Notre Dame by Mary K. Daly Generation A at Fordham by Amanda Fiscina Debate Denied: Conservatives Stifled at Stanford by Gregory Hirshman Intolerant Tolerance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by Nash Keune Conservatives and Libertarians Face Challenges at the University of Michigan by Adam Pascarella Pursuing Truth and Virtue: The Great Tradition at Hillsdale College by Julie Robison
A project I have been imaging for a long time is now actually a reality. The Center for the Study of American Ideals and Culture has received its first funding, from the new Apgar Foundation. With this first seed money, we can now get this enterprise off the ground. I must admit I am quite proud, as they said that of the forty or so applications they requested, ours was the best. Here is the mission statement: The Center for the Study of American Ideals and Culture at the University of Arizona will provide the leaders of the future with an ennobling vision, a sense of a larger purpose and a higher calling, through an understanding of the theoretical foundations of American institutions and culture. With the management and direction of a new undergraduate major, the development of curricular and pedagogical innovation, research, performance, and public outreach, the Center will restore balance in the dialogue over the value of the heritage of Western civilization, the development of the American polity, and the expression of the American soul through the arts. Founded and directed by composer Daniel Asia, the new program will combat the rising ignorance of the American intellectual experience, especially of the philosophical principles of the founding of America, science and religion and its interaction with social policy, and of high culture, especially the rich legacy of high art and music." Comments, as well as million dollar gifts, are appreciated.
The Chronicle of Higher Education jobs list includes this gem: “The Department of English at UCLA invites applications for the position of Assistant Professor in Residence, in the area of 19th-century American literature . . . .” “Candidates should demonstrate engagement with the changing dynamics of the field, which is now characterized by disparate approaches and new configurations of interests, including (but not limited to) transatlantic studies, hemispheric studies, print culture and material textuality studies, gender and sexuality studies, visual culture studies, comparative race and ethnicity studies, geographical studies, disability studies, and other innovative frameworks.” Literature? The mind boggles. Disability studies should have a field day with Captain Ahab.
I have been reading Karl Popper's Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume I and am awestruck with Popper's scholarship and its relevance to currently percolating issues such as social justice education, political correctness and climate change research. Popper shows that Plato is at the root of totalitarianism. Plato re-defined justice to mean the individual's existence for the good of the state; conceived of a ruling elite given politically correct indoctrination; and advocated total social control of day-to-day life. Popper argues that Plato bases all of this on his tribalist and naturalist morality, that is, his belief that morals are rooted in nature. Much like today's environmentalists, Plato favored a return to primitive olden times before the innovation that had occurred in Athens. Plato defined justice just as social justice educators do, namely, that the just is what is socially good. The guardians, the ruling elite, were to receive a social justice-based education. Plato intensely disliked Athenian democracy and the steps that Pericles and others had made to define justice as equality before the law. Rather, public morality would be defined by the politically correct guardian class. Morality, moderation and justice would mean adherence to one's place and obedience to authority. Like Plato, today's environmentalists believe that the primitive is best and that human innovation is evil. Much as the cap and trade bill attempts to assert nationally centralized authority over day-day-life, overseen by a Platonic "administrator" or philosopher king, so Plato believed that the greatest virtues were to be obedient or to lead others.
In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Professor Tim Mosteller writes about his efforts at establishing a new college that will focus on great books and liberal learning. I'm wholeheartedly in favor of ventures like this that offer students a better option than they find at most colleges and universities. Trying to change higher education is only a bit less difficult than turning lead into gold. Let's give students who really want education -- rather than just a bunch of course credits -- the kind of experience Tim Mosteller has in mind.
Wild West killer-for-hire "Deacon" Jim Miller dressed the part of a church-going citizen. Why does UNC Chapel Hill lecture series on "Renewing the Western Tradition" come to mind? Peter Wood writes at NAS.org:
As Jane Shaw explains, the speakers that the committee did choose seem to interpret “renewing Western civilization” as mainly a matter of debunking, de-centering, and otherwise expressing irritation with Western civilization. The subtext seems to be: Renew it? Why would anyone bother? Let’s just get on with replacing it. For this UNC spends $15,000 per lecture, from money given by a donor who explicitly sought a positive approach to the study of Western civilization.
For the full story, check out Jane Shaw's report at the Clarion Call, "The Culture Chasm at UNC."