Most students no longer are taught their nation’s triumphs that would equip them to be knowledgeable citizens.
Major universities have turned from instruction in the significance of Western Civilization to the “profound” influence of Lady Gaga, (real name: Stephanie Germanotta), the bizarre recording artist whose commercial success has somehow topped charts around the world. In some colleges today even history majors don’t have to delve into our nation’s influences and beginings.
The national Association of Scholars, in a new analysis, “The Vanishing West: 1964-2010,” describes the tragic near disappearance of the study of Western Civilization from the American undergraduate curriculum.
Four top-tier universities now offer Lady Gaga’s influence in music, the arts, fashion and the LGBT lifestyle. At the same time, shockingly, none of the schools—University of Virginia, University of South Carolina, Wake Forest, and Arizona State require their students to study history to get their diploma.
Western civilization courses have been scratched from the general education requirements. They have been replaced in large part by courses that either undermine traditions in the West or “Balkanize” the curriculum. For example, black studies emphasize the plight of blacks. Women’s studies enthuse over the rising role of women. Yet American history, when it is available and required, emphasizes conflict, exploitation and imperial goals. Third World studies typically relate supposed abuse and unfair dominance by the West.
Polls indicate that students are alienated from their own culture. Witness the Occupy Wall Street Movement., so warmly embraced by Obama forces. Young people who will vote this year and some of whom will eventually be the nation’s leaders are no longer learning about their civilization’s triumphs and its role in transforming the human condition.
“[F]or much of the twentieth century the Western history survey course was the standard means by which colleges and universities provided American undergraduates with a coherent nature of their civilization’s rise,” the National Association of Scholars (NAS) said. The studies told of the exceptionalism of the United States, a national characteristic which Barack Obama disparages.
“Western Civilization courses had deep symbolic importance for those who were seeking to refocus the undergraduate curriculum on multiculturalism and diversity,” the NAS declared. “When in 1987 Jesse Jackson led Stanford protestors in a chant of ‘Hey hey, ho ho, Western Culture’s got to go,’ the object was not to displace mathematics or English literature, but eliminate a course that focused on Western Civilization,” the analysis recalled. Getting rid of Western Civilization courses reflected an ideological hostility. “Western Civilization” had come to be seen by radicals as a form of apologetics for racism, imperialism, sexism, and colonialism.
The first, comprehensive, multi-year investigation of subjects being taught in colleges across the country was “One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America’s Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy,” by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin in 2009. They cited more than 150 courses revealing the left-wing politics infused in liberal arts curriculum, including attempts to convince students that America is imperialistic and racist. An earlier book (2006) by Horowitz, “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America,” exposed those with terrorist or non-democratic goals.
Lynne Cheney, former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities, in 1994 launched an attack on the group then developing National History Guidelines for the schools. In an editorial page article in the Wall Street Journal, Cheney described the proposed history standards as a “grim and gloomy” portrayal of American history.
“Imagine an outline for teaching American history,” Cheney wrote, “in which George Washington makes only a fleeting appearance and is never described as our first president. Or in which the founding of the Sierra Club and the National Organization for Women are considered noteworthy events, but the first gathering of the U.S. Congress is not.”
Cheney continued to fight for truthful portrayals of the glorious events leading to the adoption of our Constitution, when she served on the Bicentennial Commission on the U.S. Constitution in the mid-1980s. I was proud to serve with her at the time.
In their new study, the National Association of Scholars found only one in 75 top universities required students to study western civilization. In 1964, more than half required students take a two-semester course covering the history of western civilization from Greece to the modern era. The other half of the universities had required courses guaranteeing that students understood the history of their society.
The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, asking “What Will They Learn,” found that only 20 percent of universities require students to take a U.S. government or history course. Only 5 percent make students take an economics class. The Council said schools should expect graduates to be competitive in the world.
When parents write checks for $20,000 or more a year for college, they expect a young person to be equipped for a job. But Obamanomics has slammed the door on that prospect for many. Most thinking parents also expect the schooling would yield not only an ability to read and write but also some knowledge of history and politics. The widespread political ignorance was shown in 2008 in the election of Obama.
The National Association of Scholars said young people “are no longer learning about their civilization’s great story, its triumphs, its vicissitudes, and its singular role in transforming the human condition. What is the future of a civilization whose heirs have largely become blinded to its history?” it asked rhetorically.
The widespread emphasis on ‘multiculturalism’ is no answer. Historical scholarship, including our knowledge of interactions with other civilizations and cultures would probably have to be included. “The Vanishing West offers 23 recommendations aimed at better studying the problem and rebuilding the curriculum.
Today, at too many colleges thematic fields can include “comparative colonialism,” “gender and sexuality,” “law and society,” “race and ethnicity,” “urban history,” “Africa and the Diaspora,” and “The Border/LaFrontera.” Often no requirements are specified within the concentration or the field of study, leaving student discretion in choosing such courses as “American Sexual Histories,” “Sex, Lies, and Diaries,” or “Elvis, Dylan and Postwar America.”
Certainly as disturbing as the disappearance of the study of the Western ascent toward liberty is the reality that 1960s terrorist Bill Ayers, leader of the Weather Underground, the communist revolutionary group, and former professor at the University of Illinois, was a mentor to Barack Obama.
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