Cultural Revolutions

Under Attack

Western civilization is under attack at American colleges and universities. The most publicized series of incidents is the willingness of the Stanford University faculty to introduce a replacement for Western civilization that includes equal time for minority contributions and women authors. Presumably what the Stanford faculty has responded to is the charge that the reading list reflects a Euro-centered, male bias with sexist and racist stereotypes. Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, John Stuart Mill, Shakespeare, and Dante have been reduced to stereotypes in the New Age.

What is at work at Stanford and elsewhere is curriculum reform through intimidation. Those at the barricades tend to be the vocal reformers who claim that women, the poor, and blacks are insufficiently represented in course readings. As one student activist pointed out to me recently, "It is better to have one reading by a black revolutionary than all the sonnets of Shakespeare." Barry Katz, professor of history at Stanford and member of the academic task force responsible for the new course, contends that "the existing course requirement asserts that we have a common culture and it asserts that it can be defined by a bit of reading in the great works. This has been an affront to a large number of students and faculty, to women and members of minority groups."

The majority of faculty members at Stanford are disappointed with the curriculum...

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