7/8/2009 2:30 PM
It looks like the upper administration of the University of Texas at Austin is even more hostile to Western civilization and American values than it was when I was a student there. Thanks to Elizabeth Young with the Texas Public Policy Foundation for passing along this gem of an article from Minding the Campus. The article details how Rob Koons, professor of philosophy at the University, set up a program to promote the study of Western civilization and then got knifed by the administration at every turn.
Unfortunately, a lot of big donors to Texas universities think their administrators are like the ones they remembered in the 1940s. Fiscally prudent yet scholarly and primarily interesting in developing young peoples' minds.
That's not what higher education is like now. Today's administrators care mainly about money and secondarily about impressing the left-wing, politically correct subculture that controls higher education. In the case of the University of Texas at Austin there was a time when its adminstration was somewhat conservative (speaking in relative terms of course.) But ever since Bill Cunningham became president of the University in 1985 things progressively moved leftward.
So I am disappointed, but not surprised, to read that the administration of my alma matter is causing trouble for new efforts to improve the teaching of Western civilization and American values to the next generation of young people. Words still mean things, and there's a big difference between calling a center the "Program in Western Civilization and American Institutions" versus the administration renaming and repackaging it as the "The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas."
Having interviewed several people applying for LSR internships over the years, I know now that our public schools are falling down on the job when it comes to passing along to the next generation the rich history and tradition that we inherited from Western Europe. What a shame. A generation that does not even understand its own inheritance.
But even when I was a student in 1991-1994, it was possible to get a good education at the University of Texas and learn about the great classics of Western thought. One had to seek it -- rather than having it as a part of the required curriculum -- but it was there for those who wanted it. I hope today's students can benefit like I once did.
Back then, UT professors even voted down a proposed multiculturalism requirement in the early 1990s. (In fact, I would argue that current President Bill Powers' curriculum reform initatives are largely an effort to get a multiculturalism requirement through with minimal backlash from UT's conservative donor base, largely by concealing it within the context of a broader curriculum rewrite.)
But -- as is true of most "flagship" universities -- as older professors retire, they are replaced almost exclusively from the leftward end of the political spectrum.
Incidents like the one described in the blog post are one reason I've been so critical of all these tuition increases that the Legislature authorized in 2003. If UT is going to be given more power to take more money from Texans' wallets than fundamental reform should be a part of that discussion, including reforms to curtail political correctness, encourage ideological diversity, and restrain spending.
Perhaps the Republican legislators who have supported UT in the past (Geanie Morrison and Dan Branch come to mind) will read this article and take note. At least then they would understand what it is they are supporting.