Teaching Western civilisation could become so risky that the army might be needed
Edmund Capon has some advice for those who exhort us to be intolerant of prejudice
Janet Albrechtsen on civilisation, The Weekend Australian, Saturday: A course on Western civilisation was thrown out by Australian National University censors a few months ago, and a similar group is determined to do the same at the University of Sydney. On Monday, there were security guards outside a faculty meeting … If they agree to a course on the great books of literature, will Sydney University need to call in the army to ensure lessons proceed? The Ramsay Centre’s website: Our objective … is “to advance edu- cation by promoting studies and discussion associated with the establishment and development of Western civilisation …” The Australian Financial Review, September 13: Academic staff at the University of Queensland are pushing back against their management, which is in talks with the Ramsay Centre over a course that became controversial when former prime minister and Ramsay Centre board member Tony Abbott said it would be “in favour” of Western civilisation. Branch president of the Na- tional Tertiary Education Union at UQ, Andrew Bonnell, said academic freedom was protected in the staff enterprise bargaining agreement and the union would resist anything that did not let them teach or research without fear or favour. Peter Anstey, professor of philosophy at Sydney University, Sydney Morning Herald, September 13: The debate about a Ramsay Centrefunded program in Western civilisation … generated plenty of heat but very little light. Denunciations and assertions about “selling intellectual freedom to the highest bidder” and devaluing the study of other cultures make great clickbait but, in the end, undermine the integrity and effort of the many academics at Sydney and other institutions who have devoted their scholarly lives to understanding and teaching about Western civilis- ation — and by most measures Sydney has more of them than any other university in Australia. Luke Slattery steps into the den, The Australian, August 20: Vice-chancellor Michael Spence certainly has nothing to fear from student opposition. I attended a talk recently at which a student and an academic spoke on the rather nebulous subject — “the myth of Western civilisation”. I counted an audience of 22 … There would have been more people queuing at any one moment for lattes at the coffee shop outside. Slattery continues: I was there to hear the case against the Ramsay proposal from the people at whom the course is targeted: students and early career academics. Both speeches (no one seems to have been invited to put the case for) were rather heavy on Marxist rhetoric. Yet Karl Marx, who re-read Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound every year for inspiration and did his doctoral thesis on Greek … was a child of the European Enlightenment. Former director to the Art Gallery of NSW Edmund Capon in The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday: Among the exhortations of those opposing the Ramsay Centre’s Western civilisation degree (course) I read a call for universities to “stand up unequivocally to European cultural supremacism”. I unequivocally disagree and wonder how and why those who so earnestly and piously exhort us to be intolerant of any prejudice should end up being the shrill, petty and shallow pedlars of just that — prejudice; sounding like the disaffected shattering of glass splintering on the flagstones of history.