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Western Civ Is Conservative?


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American Greatness

For today's Wokesters, the problem with Western Civilization isn’t that it’s conservative, racist, sexist, or Eurocentric,
but that it’s liberal.
By Mark Bauerlein
April 3, 2023

As we trustees at New College of Florida prepare for our third board meeting—and the protests that will accompany it —one line of objection doesn’t make sense. We are censured for espousing a classical, Western Civ approach to general education. Only hidebound conservatives would impose that obsolete curriculum upon 21st-century students—or so the claim goes. 

Our answer to the charge: read more carefully.

Consider the syllabus of Western Civilization. It reaches back to Homer, Athens, and Jerusalem, and proceeds through Rome, Augustine, Dante and Cervantes, Shakespeare, Pascal, and Milton. But a change sets in with the Enlightenment. A political theme begins and colors the heritage thenceforward, a theme aligned with (from our modern perspective) left-oriented critique. Think of the dominant figures and their destructive impact on conserving institutions, mainly the churches: Hobbes, Voltaire, Hume, Gibbon, Rousseau, Jefferson, the English Romantics, Hegel, Emerson, Mill, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, all in one way or another irreverent figures. They outnumber their conservative contemporaries by a long sight (Burke, Balzac, Dostoevsky, T. S. Eliot).

This liberal thrust of Western Civilization used to be obvious to everyone. I remember how a lot of professors in the 1980s and 90s stared in puzzlement as Western Civ came under attack as a reactionary formation. It didn’t make sense. Every revolutionary point the campus revisionists made in that Canon Wars era came somewhere out of Marx on exploitation, Rousseau on corruption, Nietzsche on power . . . So it seemed to older professors who’d gotten their year of Western Civ back in the 50s and 60s as undergraduates and happily linked it to a lifetime of voting for Democrats.




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Feel Good Story of the Day

Steven Hayward

Apr. 10 2023




I’m sure your first reaction is “don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” or that if a student tweeted a call to burn down a college, they might get expelled. But we should resist that sentiment, and call Prof. Hillegass “stunning and brave,” and encourage other faculty at New College and other public colleges in Florida to follow his example and resign.

[Hillegass has been trying to walk back that comment all day, but for a professor of “applied data science,” he seems unaware that the internet is forever.]


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