February 17, 2014

Americans are becoming increas­ingly ignorant of how the modern world was made

How the West Won—but “Western Civ” Lost.  Rodney Stark writes in the Intercollegiate Review

It’s remarkably unfashionable to study—or even talk about—the West these days.
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Forty years ago the most important and popular freshman course at the best American colleges and universities was “Western Civilization.” It not only covered the general history of the West but also included historical surveys of art, music, literature, philosophy, science, and other matters. But this course has long since disappeared from most college catalogues on grounds that Western civilization is but one of many civilizations and it is ethnocentric and arrogant to study ours.

To the extent that this policy pre­vails, Americans will become increas­ingly ignorant of how the modern world came to be. Worse yet, they are in danger of being badly misled by a flood of absurd, politically correct fabrications, all of them popular on college campuses: That the Greeks copied their whole culture from black Egyptians. That European science originated in Islam. That Western affluence was stolen from non-West­ern societies. That Western modernity was really produced in China, and not so very long ago.

The truth is that, although the West wisely adopted bits and pieces of technology from Asia, modernity is entirely the product of West­ern civilization.

I use the term modernity to identify that fundamental store of scientific knowledge and procedures, powerful technologies, artistic achievements, political freedoms, economic arrangements, moral sensibilities, and improved standards of living that characterize Western nations and are now revolutionizing life in the rest of the world. For there is another truth: to the extent that other cultures have failed to adopt at least major aspects of Western ways, they remain backward and impoverished.
Posted by Jill Fallon at February 17, 2014 12:12 PM | Permalink