There’s no denying that the Humanities are in crisis at our universities. The question is: what to do about it.
There’s one argument that might be called “Technological Philistinism”, which urges the junking of Humanities altogether. Like H. G. Wells’s Artilleryman, with his visceral disdain for “novels and poetry swipes”, they argue that “science books” are all the books we need. The Morrison government seems to be toeing a soft version of this line – trying to starve the Humanities of funding and apparently hoping they’ll wither on the vine.
This would be a mistake, though – because the Humanities are the unique soul of Western civilisation.
What was once the jewel in the crown of scholarship in Western Civilization has become a pedagogical sheltered workshop in our universities, totally dedicated to promulgating anti-Western, anti-Liberal, anti-Democratic, and (literally) anti-Human ideologies[…]
Unfortunately, the intensity of the reaction to this appalling situation has obscured the true nature of the Humanities and their once illustrious history as the scholarly arm of Humanism, stretching back seven centuries as a field of study, and over 2000 years as a project to lay claim “to the glory that was Greece / And the grandeur that was Rome”.
Some defenders of the Humanities like to posit Humanism as some kind of universal human tradition, “anchored in the African, Asian and Middle Eastern traditions”. This is arrant nonsense. Like its companion intellectual achievement, Science, the Humanities are the product of the West and the West alone. As physicist Paul Davies has written, if a meteorite had obliterated Western Europe around the 13th century, it is exceedingly unlikely that Science would ever have been developed.
The Humanities are the older brother – or even the father – of Science. The very name, Humanities, derives from the Latin studia humanitatis, derived in its turn from the Greek paideia.
This educational ideal was realized in the form of the ‘Liberal Arts’ (artes liberals). These are those seven intellectual disciplines that it was considered essential for free citizens to master if they were to participate fully in civic life[…]
The Humanistic ideal of a Liberal Arts education persisted until the middle of the 20th century.
[At] the height of the Cold War, the West was entering the Cultural Revolution of the Sixties, and innumerable new universities were opened up for the Baby Boomers. Quite abruptly, this entire realm of Humanist pedagogy and Humanities scholarship came under concerted attack [by] Avowed communists of various allegiances, radical New Leftists, anti-Western ideologues, exponents of identity politics, feminists, self-styled victims groups, radical environmentalists, multiculturalists and advocates of political correctness[…]
Consequently, the Great Books courses largely vanished from curricula and Western Civilization courses were demonized, as we have seen in Australia with the Ramsay Centre’s Western Civilization initiative.
This explains the visceral reaction of Marxist-dominated academia to the very suggestion of a dedicated course in Western Civilisation at Australian universities.
A tradition some 750 years in the making has been invaded, pirated, debauched, and eventually hollowed out, leaving a shell within which a whole range of alien ideas have set up shop. Ensconced in tenured positions in our universities[…]they seek determinedly to destroy not only the Humanist Tradition but the entire civilization built around it[…]
But what is now a wreck was for half a millennium “a huge and brilliantly lit metropolis of a culture” that hosted “the most sustained bout of philosophical, literary, artistic and musical wrestling known to man”. At stake in this Promethean struggle was “the future of the Western soul”, and the battle was lost.
Or was it? To be sure, the Barbarians are not just inside the gate, they’re running riot in the galleries and great halls, smashing and looting. Maybe, then, the Technological Philistines are halfway-right, with their academic scorched-earth policy. Has the time come to abandon, not the Humanities, but the universities?
Probably the universities will have to be cut free and their academic ideologues left to wither on the vine. And meanwhile, in circles where the Western tradition and scholarship are still valued, the process of reclamation of Humanism and the Humanities can begin.
The internet and the new media are a unique and invaluable resource. The extraordinary popularity of a mild, bookish Canadian psychologist who is proffering lengthy academic discourses on the Biblical traditions shows that there is still a tremendous thirst for both academic learning and the Western Humanist tradition.
It’s high time for an invigorated, newly-confident Western culture to construct a new citadel of the Humanities, and leave the universities to wallow in their squalor and ruin.
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