Thursday, September 28, 2017

Reed College Students Shutdown Classes In Protest of Western Civilization Course As “Harmful” by Jonathan Turley

We have previously discussed protests against literature and philosophy courses due to their reliance on white male authors from ancient Greece to the Enlightenment. The latest such protest is occurring at Reed College where students called “Reedies Against Racism” are protesting a required humanities class that explores founding works from ancient Greece and Rome.  Requiring freshman to read such works is being denounced as “really harmful.”  I have long been an advocate of the core curriculum and Western Civilization works (a love for these works that began as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago which helped establish the core curriculum or great works model).
“Reedies Against Racism” wants “Humanities 110 – Introduction to Humanities: Greece and the Ancient Mediterranean” to be “reformed to represent the voices of people of color.”  Alex Boyd, a Reedies Against Racism organizer, is quoted as saying:
“The course in its current iteration draws from predominantly white authors and relies heavily on the notion that Western customs are the most civilized because they are derived from those of ancient Greeks and Romans who are considered the inventors of civilization.”
It is true that they are viewed as laying the foundation for Western civilization and thought.  They also happened to be “predominantly white” since they were Greek and Roman.  However, we use their works for concepts that helped change humanity as a whole and still shape concepts of the individual and the state around the world.
This is one of the items on a list of 25 demands, but it is one of the most disturbing from an academic standpoint.  As I have previously stated, I do not believe that the content of our academic courses should be determined by plebiscite or protests.  Moreover, students have an assortment of courses that they may take in school. These courses require an education on foundational works that have shaped political and literary works for generations.  Indeed, these great works offer an excellent foundation for exploring and comparing non-Western works.
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