THE ERADICATION OF WESTERN CIV AND THE TRIUMPH OF MINDFULNESS.
By Paul Merkley.
How Mindfulness Replaced Christian Faith.
Up until about sixty years ago, all Universities in our part of the world regarded themselves as the ultimate custodians of the best parts of our intellectual tradition. Another way of saying the same thing was that they embodied Western Civilization.
One way in which most of them discharged their responsibility (or so they thought) was to impose a required core curriculum, in which a fixed component was the course in History of Western Civilization.
Many of us recall as well that, in line with this same thinking, many colleges – notably, those founded a century and more ago by church denominations — imposed an undergraduate requirement in “Religious Knowledge.” “RK” typically consisted of lectures on the main tenets of Christian faith and the History of the Church. While RK was eventually giggled out of the curriculum by the deep-thinkers, I feel some gratitude towards the Board of Trinity College at the University of Toronto for imposing RK upon me, as it gave me some glimpse into the intellectual defense of the Christian faith—a preoccupation throughout my life.
Of course, RK is long gone from Trinity College (from which I graduated in 1956) for the simple reason that Trinity College is thoroughly ashamed of the Gospel. The “spiritual” hole left in the core curriculum when RK was trotted off has recently been filled by its Community Wellness initiative. The College’s Alumni magazine explains:
With its roots in the Anglican church, Trinity also provides spiritual counselling in the person of Andrea Budgey, the Humpreys chaplain, who is eager to convey the message that her ministry at Trinity is resolutely multi-faith. She points out that the spiritual contribution to mental health is alive at the College, but has shifted in some ways: Mindfulness meditation groups (using principles derived from Buddhism [sic]) are very popular right now at the university. Budgey also keeps Trinity’s renowned chapel open at noon on Tuesdays for private meditation.”I call it Peace Prayers – it’s whatever people want to make of it, “ she says. [“Mind, Body and Spirit: Trinity is taking a multi-pronged approach to supporting ‘the whole student.’” Trinity, Spring, 2016. ]
The End of Western Civ.
As for Western Civ, it lost its place in the core curriculum of all self-respecting Universities long ago. The ground was cleared for this capitulation during the 1960s, when student mobs demanded and received from faculty boards ultimate determination of the curriculum. This was an episode within the larger story of Student Power – which in turn was part of the fantasy of People Power.
Subsequently, at the end of a path marked by constant lobbying and raucous demonstrations at Faculty and Board Meetings by Student Councils, we have now reached the place where Western Civ is being replaced by equally compulsory courses in “diversity” and/or ”minority culture.” [See, “After Trump chalking, university forces students to take “minority culture’ class to graduate,” and “UCLA Bruin Republicans protest diversity requirement, launch #LetUsChoose slogan, http://www.the collegefix.com, May 10, 2016.]
The Dumbing-down of Higher Learning.
To accommodate the champions of “Student Power” – the political and cultural radicals who manufacture the slogans on which the campaign against civilization depended — the faculties and boards of all the major Universities and colleges acquiesced during the 1960s and beyond in the dumbing-down of the University curriculum. Intellectual content in general began to leak away as faculty members competed to dream up exciting and provocative titles for their course offerings. The rule-of-thumb – recognizable to anyone who worked in that vineyard for any a length of time – became that empty intellectual content, combined with lively style and issuing in high scores for all, commanded the highest approval ratings (indispensible for promotion) and the largest audiences (essential for creating the revenue which keeps the universities going.)
Recently, the Academic Senate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign voted to require students entering the university in 2018 to take one class each in “non-Western culture” and “U.S. minority culture.” (Currently, students must take one course that satisfies either of those categories.) Approved courses (we are told) will “substantially address the experiences, conditions, and perspectives of U.S. racial minority populations,” though courses on sexuality, gender, religion and disability can also qualify as long as racial minorities are “significant” themes.
In some places, this totalitarian-doctrinarian enforcement has met with opposition. But History (so to speak) appears to be on the side of the “diversity” zealots.
At the University of Missouri, Business Professor Steven Michael, who also serves on the university’s Senate Educational Policy Committee, was one of the few to speak out against the proposal. Professor Michael presented no philosophical argument but rather managed to re-shape the issue as a financial matter citing its cost and the burden on students in “highly prescribed programs”:
Michael said the initial proposal called for 26 TAs at a cost of approximately $750,000, which means the new figure of 73 TAs could cost $2 million. “That exceeds the budgets of most departments and some colleges” at UI, he said. [ “Massive diversity requirement planned for University of Missouri, taught by ‘army’ www.thecollegefix.com/post/24357] .
But the U. of Missouri has gone along with this missionary effort. Legions of undergraduates, all certified as politically correct by the Student Council, will now go on the University’s payroll. Does anyone anywhere imagine that there could be anything of scholarly value produced by this massive boondoggle?
The New and Liberating Core Curriculum.
Student and faculty campaigns for the enforcing of contempt for traditional curriculum have worked hand-in-hand with campaigns to establish privileged standing for pre-civilized, pre-literate, studies, as well as for promotion of counterculture. In the place that Western Civ once occupied, the most ancient universities have now imposed required courses in Native American (that is, Stone Age) Studies, along with Gender Studies. The fully-declared purpose of these latter courses is to cast the Family, Civilization’s basic building-clock, out into the place where leaders of opinion have installed the lepers. Homosexual advocacy groups (“Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, and now Transexuals, GLBT) now have privileged standing in the company of Courses required for graduation.
All this time, Student Councils have been imposing their totalitarian will through the use of truth squads which survey lectures, and regularly get faculty members summoned and sanctioned for “hateful” digressions from the cultural-left consensus on issues of gender (GLBT). In such settings, teachers who might otherwise imagine that they are educated and informed people, are told what words they may use.
I was once denounced by a single student for using the term “she” as the pronominal substitute for the United States during my lecture on Pearl Harbor, and brought before the Department’s cultural enforcers. There I was told that I had failed to grasp how deeply hurtful it is to sensitive souls to hear the United States referred to as “she”. (I still have not figured this out.) I was “cautioned,” but was still able to tell them to Go to Hell without the sky falling.
The incident just noted took place just a few years before my retirement in 1999. The power of the student enforcers has greatly increased since then. And with this increase has gone a devastation of the intellectual content of what used to be called University learning.