Education

Western Civilization

(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.

In the category of the decline of education, I got news the other day regarding the University of Kansas where I took baccalaureate work more years ago than I care to remember. The College of Liberal Arts and sciences is discussing eliminating the requirement of the “reading heavy” Western Civilization discussion course which also included a four hour comprehensive examination (I really hated Rousseau).  There is a statement that the course is not going away but that there will be “other options” for the bachelor of arts degree. The College also awards a bachelor of general studies degree that eliminates onerous requirements.

As I recall, the discussions and the works were sometimes long and, from a 20-year-old point of view, not really relevant to the world of 1964. They did cut into study time for other courses, not to mention pool playing, but the discussions could be very interesting. Why did I need to read The Communist Manifesto although it was considerably more readable than Marx’s Capital? What did long dead philosophers have to do with the gritty world of the 20th Century with its “new” ideas and problems. And we still ask the same questions in discussion groups that are more voluntary in nature. Forty years makes a lot of difference in perspective. If someone wants to discuss political ethics, I start with recommending Plato’s philosopher king and work through Aristotle, Machiavelli (The Discourses as well as The Prince) and even Bonhoeffer—if you want a heavy discussion you do heavy reading.

It is 2012. And we still have arguments flying around as “new” and innovative.  And, unless we are required to the majority of us do not discuss the historical and philosophical underpinnings of Western culture.  I hear people talking about defending western civilization from people who have no clue as to what they are defending and what are the consequences. Hint: Our political and social system owes more to Greece and Rome than to the Bible.

New needs to be tested and sometimes there is no substitute for heavy reading.

 

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