How threatening to some academics is the idea of a program in Western civilisation being taught on their campuses? Enough that it’s worth going to court over.
That’s right: the National Tertiary Education Union, along with a staff member from the University of Wollongong, have resorted to going to the NSW Supreme Court to fight the university’s decision to offer a Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation through the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.
To date, the plan is that in 2020, the University of Wollongong’s newly created School of Liberal Arts will open its doors to a cohort of 30 students, each of whom will be given a stipend of around $30,000 towards living expenses, and who will graduate in 2023 after having spent three years immersed in the canon of Western civilisation.
In the Ramsay’s indicative curriculum, students will read Chaucer, Aristotle, Plato and Foucault. They will look at paintings by Picasso and Raphael, and they will listen to Chopin and Stravinsky.
According to the Ramsay Centre website, it sees this experience as one that will allow students to ‘gain an awareness and appreciation of the distinctive but many-sided civilisation which informs so much of what we think and do’.
Unfortunately, the NTEU sees this experience altogether differently.
It genuinely appears to believe that the sole purpose of the Ramsay Centre is to insert itself into a university campus, inveigle 30 perfectly reasonable individuals to undertake its BA and then spend the next three years turning them into rabid racists.
The NTEU is also putting pressure on the University of Queensland to reject the BA in Western Civilisation.
In the latest edition of its quarterly magazine ‘Advocate’, a title which sounds much more concerned with activism than it does with education, the general secretary of the NTEU, Matthew McGowan, states that the main reason for going to court is because the BA would pose a serious threat to academic freedom and integrity.
This, quite frankly, is not the case. The real reason behind the NTEU’s recourse to the law is because many of its members who are employed as academics, mostly in the humanities departments, harbour a deep and pathological hatred of Western civilisation which they believe to be fundamentally racist.
In his statement, McGowan claims that the Ramsay Centre ‘has a specific political agenda based on promoting the superiority or at least centrality, of ‘Western civilisation’ as the true means of enlightening students’.
He continues, stating that ‘some academics have suggested that the whole project is built on implicit racism’. In 2017, the then head of humanities and social sciences at the University of Newcastle wrote an article commenting that Western civilisation is past its use-by date because it’s too white and not diverse enough.
She, like so many others, subscribe to the notion that our established values, customs and history don’t represent the diverse racial, cultural, and gender identities of Australians and so they need to be demolished.
The idea that Western civilisation is racist was recently articulated by Nick Riemer, a lecturer in English at the University of Sydney by directly connecting the Christchurch massacre with the teaching of Plato, Shakespeare and Virgil.
Having rejected Western civilisation, Riemer and his colleagues have instead embraced the radical theory of identity politics.
In the humanities, whether it be History, English, Anthropology or Social Sciences, everything is now geared towards the intellectual equivalent of a totalitarian state which is governed by one particular orthodoxy: class, race and gender.
In its 2017 report ‘The Rise of Identity Politics: History in Australian Universities’, the IPA found that the most frequently employed words in the subject descriptions of all 746 history undergraduate subjects taught at 35 Australian universities were ‘race’, ‘gender’, ‘identity’ and ‘sexuality’.
Similarly, in the IPA’s 2018 report ‘Australian History’s Last Stand; An audit of Australian History Teaching at Universities’, it turns out that nearly three-quarters of all Australian history subjects, that is 102 out of 147, were taught through the lens of identity politics.
The plain and simple truth of the matter is that the folk at the University of Wollongong, or indeed any university for that matter, simply can’t afford to have a BA in Western Civilisation running on their campus.
This is because it would reveal the extent to which they are failing their undergraduates by filling their heads with nothing but class, race and gender: It would reveal just how educationally malnourished today’s undergraduates really are.
The chance to learn something different by returning to the great literature, art and music of Western civilisation would be like offering them a choice between a sumptuous buffet or a bowl of gruel.
The opportunity would be too tempting, the contrast too great.
Students who are already deserting the humanities in their droves, will ultimately pick the buffet over the gruel.