Western Civilization Is Increasingly Defenceless. This Begins in School

By Gary North (www.garynorth.com), January 04, 2014
In the late 1960s, I was a teaching assistant in the Western civilization program at the University of California, Riverside. In those days, a course in Western civilization was required for graduation. At another private college in California, Occidental College, which had a very good academic reputation, the requirement was two years of Western civilization.

Today, probably fewer than 10% of college graduates take a class in Western civilization. It is a requirement in very few colleges and universities. It is not even recommended. What was once the backbone of the curriculum in American higher education is now an afterthought.

Students do not have any sense of the interconnectedness of Western civilization. They do not understand the connections among religion, philosophy, morality, economics, and politics. They surely have very little concept of the role that literature has played in the development of Western civilization.

For over half a century, this really bothered me. In the back of my mind, I had an idea for how Western civilization and Western literature should be taught. But the only schools that teach it this way in a systematic fashion are the two campuses of St. John’s University. Their core curriculum is based on what is sometimes called “the great books program.” This was a common program a century ago. It no longer is.

When I began designing the Ron Paul Curriculum, I decided to make the Western civilization program a two-year course. It combines both history and literature. So, every student takes four courses totalling about 750 lectures. The English courses for the sophomore and junior years correspond chronologically to the Western civilization course. This way, students get a sense of the interconnectedness of Western civilization.

It is unfortunate that most high school students do not have a course like this. It is even more unfortunate that most college students never have a course like this. Most of all, it is unfortunate that only a handful of schools are even concerned about the possibility that a course like this could be created. This kind of course is no longer available in the United States, unless you go to a very expensive private school like St. John’s or a handful of small Catholic colleges that are tied to the great books.

I am teaching the English courses. Tom Woods is teaching the Western civilization courses. Between us, we cover the basics. This is one of the selling points of the curriculum. The problem is, it is not a selling point that would be widely understood by the vast majority of parents in the United States. We are not after the vast majority. We are after a very tiny segment. For parents who do understand the importance of Western civilization, the Ron Paul Curriculum will be a tremendous bargain. That, unfortunately, is a limited number of parents.

The thought of teaching business without also teaching the development of private property and the legal system in the West seems like a terrible waste. Businessmen do not have a sense of legitimacy associated with their life’s work. They have been under attack for so long, that they do not recognize how important entrepreneurship has been in the development of Western civilization. This was not really understood in the West until the 17th century, and not clearly understood until the 18th century. Businessmen have operated under a cloud in the West for centuries. It was only when Western preaching began to become favourable to entrepreneurship that the modern world began. It was only with a change of rhetoric, meaning a change in moral outlook, which took place in the Netherlands in the 17th century, that made possible the beginning of compound economic growth, sometime around 1800.

Future businessmen need to be told this when they are about 15 years old. They have got to understand the centrality of private property and entrepreneurship in the development of civilization.

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