Tag Archives: Europe

Europe: The Disappearance of a Continent

What the College Board did to American history two years ago it has now done to European history: erase and contort. Writing at the National Review Online’s The Corner, Stanley Kurtz makes clear what is at stake: “The curriculum will shape textbooks and the way in which all high school and college students are taught about our Western heritage for years to come.” This report introduces a critique sponsored by the National Association of Scholars of the College Board’s new Advanced Placement European history standards. Two years ago, NAS’s critique of the College Board’s dramatically revised U.S. History Standards touched off a national debate. That debate led the College Board in 2015 to revise those standards again. NAS’s critique also prompted a movement to develop a competing set of standards and tests to provide American schools an alternative to the College Board’s monopoly.

Much of the European past goes missing in the new AP European History Course and Exam Description, as it is officially called.  Columbus is absent, and Churchill is reduced to a single prompt. The College Board tells the story of European history as the triumph of secular progressivism, and shunts to the margins the continent’s centuries-long rise to political freedom and prosperity.

In his 12,200-word essay, The Disappearing Continent, NAS Director of Communications David Randall (Ph.D., History, Rutgers University, 2005; specializing in early modern European history) traces the pattern of exclusions and inclusions in these standards, which are already shaping high school curricula across the country. The Disappearing Continent is the first extended examination of the College Board’s European history initiative. We hope to inspire others to join us in the effort to challenge the new standards—to improve them if possible and to replace them if necessary.

Excerpts from The Disappearing Continent

The College Board’s persisting progressive distortion of history substantiates concerns that the 2015 APUSH(Advanced Placement United States History) revisions do not represent a genuine change of direction, but only a temporary detour in the College Board’s long march to impose leftist history on the half a million American high school students each year who prepare themselves for college by taking APUSH or APEH (Advanced Placement European History).

The traditional history of Europe tells how Europeans, uniquely, articulated the ideals of freedom, put them into practice, and created the modern world. APEH’s leftist skew transforms the history of Europe into a story of a generic modernization process that turned Europe into a secular, well-governed welfare state. This skew disserves American high school students by presenting a badly distorted history of Europe that ignores or minimizes the parts of Europe’s history that contradict its progressive narrative. It reduces, above all, 1. The history of liberty; 2. The history of religion; and 3. The history of Britain.

Culture’s Formative Role Erased Historians have explored the ways religion and culture shaped Europe’s economic development ever since the publication of Max Weber’s classic study The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905). Yet though APEH emphasizes economic history throughout, it focuses exclusively on how economic changes affect religion and culture, and never mentions the critical roles that religion and culture play in shaping economic development.

So far as APEH is concerned, economic causation is a one-way street. APEH never mentions Max Weber’s thesis that Protestant faith nurtured economic modernity. APEH emphasizes economic history throughout, but it never describes how the thrifty and striving Protestant culture in Geneva, Amsterdam, and London helped create the modern economic world. Neither does APEH mention how many entrepreneurs and technological innovators were members of this Protestant culture. APEH obscures the link between the Protestant work ethic and the creation of mass European prosperity

APEH also nearly eliminates Islam, Orthodoxy, and Judaism, because their very existence complicates and compromises APEH’s simple narrative of secular modernization. APEH’s removal of Islam may also be motivated by modern progressives’ reluctance to mention modern Islamist terror, much less to confront its deep roots in Islam’s millennial tradition of jihad. Certainly, Islam’s disappearance is the most dramatic of the three, because the portions of Europe under Islamic rule disappear as well.

APEH scarcely mentions the history of the Ottoman Empire, or of southeastern Europe, except for The Disappearing Continent – a) brief mentions of the Battle of Kosovo the Battle of Vienna (1683) and c) the decaying end of Ottoman rule between the Crimean War and Kemal’s formation of modern Turkey. APEH also overlooks a) the fall of Constantinople (1453).

APEH damages the history of early modern Europe especially badly by excising the ideals of freedom. APEH mentions that “Secular political theories, such as those espoused in Machiavelli’s The Prince, provided a new concept of the state” but not that secular political theories also provided new concepts of freedom from the state. APEH hints that “Admiration for Greek and Roman political institutions supported a revival of civic humanist culture in the Italian city-states and produced secular models for individual and political behavior,”—but it obscures civic humanism’s connection to republicanism and liberty. So too tolerance: APEH directs students to “Trace the changing relationship between states and ecclesiastical authority and the emergence of the principle of religious toleration” but it only cites examples of toleration that were granted reluctantly.

APEH never mentions that Americans should study Europe’s past because it is our history. APEH never acknowledges that we care about Europe because Europeans founded and settled America, because Americans modeled our ideals, our government, and our society on Europe, or because America shares in the Western tradition that stretches from the Battle of Thermopylae to the Battle of Britain.

America’s knowledge of its European legacy is part of our own history— but APEH obscures the reason George Washington’s peers called him Rome’s Cincinnatus reborn, or why Union soldiers sang of their president as Father Abraham at Shiloh, Big Bethel, and Jerusalem Plank Road. APEH relinquishes the most important reason to study Europe’s history—because its heritage is our birthright. APEH sunders America from its European past particularly by minimizing British history. APEH distorts European history in and of itself by its partial erasure of Britain, but it also removes the hinge that connects America to Europe through people, language, literature, law, government, ideals, society, and culture. Our Europe above all is Britain, and APEH amputates our mother country’s story as the necessary means to make Europe’s history a chronicle of a foreign land.

The College Board’s new 2015 AP European History examination (APEH) warps and guts the history of Europe to make it serve today’s progressive agenda. APEH turns Europe’s history into a foreshortened, neo-Marxist, generic narrative of historical modernization, powered by abstract social and economic forces. It defines modernization around secularism, the state, and a thin supportive intellectual history. It mentions neither Christopher Columbus nor Winston Churchill. APEH points the arrow of European history toward a well-governed, secular welfare state, whose interchangeable subjects possess neither national particularity nor faith nor freedom.

The College Board’s progressive distortion of European history powerfully resembles the bias in its 2014 Advanced Placement United States History examination (APUSH). The College Board’s persistent progressive bias substantiates concerns that the 2015 APUSH revisions do not represent a genuine change of direction, but only a temporary detour in the College Board’s long march to impose leftist history on the half a million American high school students each year who prepare themselves for college by taking APUSH or APEH.

The Findings

1) APEH presents the history of government rather than of liberty.

2) APEH presents religion throughout as an instrument of power rather than as an autonomous sphere of European history.

3) APEH treats the movement to abolish slavery without mentioning how it was inspired by religious faith, led by saints such as William Wilberforce, and hymned to Amazing Grace.

4) APEH underplays British history throughout, thus minimizing the importance of Britain’s distinctive history in the European tradition as the champion of liberty.

5) APEH minimizes and extenuates the evils of Communism, the brutal destructiveness of Soviet rule, and the aggressiveness of Soviet foreign policy.

6) APEH virtually ignores Europe’s unique development of the architecture of modern knowledge, which made possible almost every modern form of intellectual inquiry.

7) APEH doesn’t argue that European history is important or interesting in itself. APEH never gives a reason why students should study Europe’s history in particular.

8) APEH never mentions that Americans should study Europe’s past because it is our history.

We make 8 recommendations:

1) The College Board should justify the study of European history as the study of Americans’ history—the origin of our founding settlers, our government, our society, and our ideals.

2) The College Board should justify the study of European history because of its intrinsic interest.

3) The College Board should add an examination on Classical and Medieval European history up to c. 1450.

4) The College Board should restore the importance of contingency, culture, politics, and historical individuals, and reduce the importance of inevitability, society, and economics.

5) The College Board should live up to its ideals and incorporate diverse historiographies.

6) The College Board should place the history of religion (including histories of Orthodoxy, Islam, and Judaism), the history of liberty, and the history of Britain at the heart of APEH.

7) The College Board should also place the emergence of the theory and practice of freemarket economic liberty at the heart of APEH.

8) The College Board should accompany changes to APEH with parallel changes in all APEH materials, including textbooks, instructional materials, and teacher training. Americans should not rely on the College Board, or any one organization, to make these changes. We make one final recommendation:

9) Americans should restore choice and accountability to secondary education in America by developing competitive alternatives to the College Board’s AP testing program.

Capitalism and Western Civilization: Liberal Education

CapitalismEducation pic.jpgSpeaking of business and management majors, Douglas Campbell and James E. Fletcher argue
in A Better Way to Educate Professionals that their students “should have a strong base in the traditional liberal arts and the physical sciences….to effectively work with people to understand and solve problems as well as to accomplish individual, organizational, and social goals.”

The  management consultant Peter Drucker agrees, writing in The New Realities (1989):

Management… deals with action and application and its tests are
results. This makes it a technology. But management also deals with people, their values, their growth and development–and this makes it a humanity. So does its concern with, and impact on, social structure and the community. Indeed, as everyone has learned who, like this author, has been working with managers of all kinds of institutions for long years, management is deeply involved in spiritual concerns–the nature of man, good and evil.

Management is thus what tradition used to call a liberal art–“liberal” because it deals with the fundamentals of knowledge, self-knowledge, wisdom, and leadership; “art” because it is practice and application. Managers draw on all the knowledges and insights of the humanities and the social sciences and ethics. But they have to focus this knowledge on effectiveness and results.

For these reasons, management will increasingly be the discipline and the practice through which the “humanities” will again acquire recognition, impact, and respect. 

The Romans educated their governing elites in the artes liberales, the
“liberal arts.” To them, artesmeant skills and liberales referred
to a free man. Liberal arts were originally something like “skills of the
citizen elite” or “skills of the ruling class,” who were expected to debate and
decide on issues of public policy. The Renaissance deplored ignorance and
exalted the power of the educated mind. For its elite, it stressed education in
the skills and prudence necessary to be successful in a life of work and to be
a public-spirited citizen and member of the ruling class. The Renaissance
demonstrated the need for balance in the knowledge provided by science,
humanistic studies, and religion. In today’s sophisticated capitalist economy,
business or corporate executives and managers constitute an economic ruling
class that should be provided a similar education and capabilities.

But our universities have adopted an orthodoxy that dismisses a priori as
“white male ideology,” the very idea of an educated person, of a cultivated
human being provided with broad and humanistic knowledge of the kind esteemed in the Renaissance. The liberal arts have largely been eliminated from
education, replaced by the social sciences and postmodern multiculturalism,
with their animus against Western civilization and objective knowledge.
Postmodernism in the academy still vehemently denies the efficacy of science,
the value of reason and humanistic studies, and the need for religion and its
moral precepts, while fostering the unrealistic and immoderate illusions of our
academic and college-educated elites.

In Post-Capitalist Society (1993), Drucker discusses the clash between postmodern multiculturalism and the classical Western education in our colleges and universities. 

A motley crew of post-Marxists, radical feminists, and other “antis” argues that there can be no such thing as an educated person–the
position of those new nihilists, the “Deconstructionists in this group assert
that there can be only educated persons with each sex, each ethnic group, each race, each “minority” requiring its own separate culture and a separate–indeed an isolationist–educated person….These people are mainly concerned with the humanities….Their target is…the universalism that is at the very core of the concept of the educated person….

The opposing camp–we might call them the “Humanists”–also scorns
the present system.  But it does so because it fails to produce a
universally educated person. The Humanist critics demand a return to the
nineteenth century, to the “liberal arts,” the “classics.”…They are in a direct line of descent from the Hutchins-Adler “Return to Pre-Modernity.”
 

Both sides, alas, are wrong. The knowledge society must have
at its core the concept of the educated person. It will have to be a universal concept, precisely because the knowledge society is a society of knowledges and because it is global–in its money, its economics, its careers, its technology,its central issues, and above all, in its information. Post-capitalist society requires a unifying force. It requires a leadership group, which can focus local, particular, separate traditions onto a common and shared commitment to values, a common concept of excellence, and on mutual respect.
 

The…knowledge society…thus needs exactly the opposite of what
Deconstructionists, radical feminists, and anti-Westerners propose. It needs the very thing they totally reject: a universally educated person.
 

Drucker argues that the productive use of knowledge now determines the competitive position of countries as well as companies (see my earlier article Knowledge Workers). More than possessing a bridge to the classical past, the educated person also “needs to be able to bring his or her knowledge to bear on the present, not to mention molding the future.” He adds:

The Western tradition will, however, still have to be at the
core, if only to enable the educated person to come to grips with the present, let alone the future. The future…cannot be “non-Western.” Its material civilization and its knowledges all rest on Western foundations: Western science; tools and technology; production; economics; Western-style finance and banking. None of these can work unless grounded in an understanding and acceptance of Western ideals and the entire Western tradition.
 

This is the very point that Steve Balch emphasizes in Metamorphosis: 

What happened in, and through, the Western world during the last
three hundred years is unique in the history of civilization. Western
civilization is not just another civilization. It represents a metamorphosis in
humanity’s estate. The other civilizations of the world have been reborn in,
and through, that of the West

Tragically, the kind of liberal education that Drucker recommends and Campbell, Fletcher, and NAS seek for future managers is no longer available in today’s academy.Campbell and Fletcher note that the saturation of the liberal arts “with
Marxist doctrine is particularly confounding. Marxism, radical-collectivism and
hostility to free enterprise are the antithesis of the traditional liberal
arts’ search for truth, virtue, beauty and the meaning of human existence, and
its commitment to intellectual freedom and personal choice.”

Moreover, the NAS report The Vanishing West demonstrates that education in the Western foundations sought by Drucker is no longer provided at most colleges and universities. Peter Wood observes in Epic Battles: “The
report brims with the relevant details. But the basic picture is clear and
simple. American higher education has by and large taken itself out of the
business of teaching undergraduate students any kind of orderly overview of
Western civilization.”

Thus, academia fails to provide the kind of enlightenment that Drucker considers
essential for management and business professionals. Instead, as Jay Schalin
notes in The Reopening of the American Mind, they are smothered in a “postmodernist fog that clouds the mind and renders graduates unemployable for all but rudimentary functions.” Ironically, the nation’s economic competitiveness is the worse for lack of a proper liberal arts education at America’s colleges and universities.

The changes recommended by NAS to restore that education need urgently to be
implemented.

The Honorable William H.Young served as Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy from November 1989 to January 1993.. 

‘Defend the Humanities’–A Dishonest Slogan

humanities.bmpCollege foreign language and literature programs have been in decline for some time, first shrinking, then being consolidated with other departments, and now in a growing number of cases actually closed down. But the recent decision to eliminate French, Italian, Russian and Classics at SUNY Albany appears to have struck a nerve, and caused an outcry: “Defend the Humanities!”
It’s a cry that has been heard many times in the past. As the segment of the university that has no direct link to a career-providing profession, the humanities have regularly been called upon to justify their usefulness, but the justification is easy to make, and it is an honorable one that instantly commands respect.
The case generally goes like this: exposure to the best of our civilization’s achievements and thought gives us the trained minds of broadly educated people. We learn about ourselves by studying our history, and understanding how it has shaped us and the institutions we live by. As European civilization developed it produced a range of extraordinary thinkers who grappled memorably with questions that will always be with us, leaving a rich and varied legacy of outstanding thought on philosophical, ethical, religious, social and political matters. Its creative writers left a record of inspired reflection on human life and its challenges. Studying the humanities make us better prepared for civic life and for living itself, and better citizens.

Continue reading ‘Defend the Humanities’–A Dishonest Slogan

The Texas Mugging Of Western Civ

Last November, Rob Koons, director of the Program in Western Civilization and American Institutions at the University of Texas, was abruptly fired from that position. In swift succession, the name of the program and its leadership was changed to conform more closely to the ideological tastes of the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts. It was reminiscent of the fiasco at Hamilton College, recounted by Roger Kimball here. The common elements are a tenured, leftist faculty who are ferocious in their pursuit of intellectual homogeneity and the blithe betrayal of donors, alumni, and students.
The College of Liberal Arts (CoLA) at the University of Texas has all of the problems that plague higher education in America, only more, bigger, and with a better football team. It forms its own self-contained and self-referential world of all varieties of leftist thought, with only the occasional intrusion of voices from the right side of the intellectual dial. It’s a place where it’s assumed that if you are a middle-aged woman, you voted for Hillary Clinton, and would be forgiven, because you were motivated by a sense of solidarity. It’s a place where a professor can say, in all seriousness that some of his best friends are liberals, but they are “politically unreliable” because they aren’t far enough left. And where Dana Cloud, associate professor of communications, can, without a hint of irony, assert on national radio that there are many conservatives at UT- just look in Aerospace Engineering!
Needless to say, this kind of intellectual conformity, enforced by political correctness isn’t good for education generally. It is buttressed by hyper-specialization, so that even at a university as big as UT, a top tier research institution, there are no survey courses in European history, to name but one gaping hole in the course offering. Likewise, the requirements for graduation from CoLA are a Luby’s buffet of choices, where your course in “India’s Non-Conformist Thinkers” counts toward your general culture requirement, but a survey course on the world’s major religions does not, because there is no such course.

Continue reading The Texas Mugging Of Western Civ

Columbia Nooses Linked To Euro-Centrism?

Here’s another bit of wisdom from the Columbia Spectator, this time on the repulsive noose incidents. Here’s the first sentence of the op-ed. See if anything strikes you as odd.

In the past weeks’ furor about nooses and graffiti, which dramatize age-old concerns about our Eurocentric curriculum, paternalistic gentrification efforts, and feelings of marginalization from students and faculty, Columbia has had to defend and confront its legacy of diversity and inclusion more so now than ever before.

The furor dramatizes “age-old concerns about our Eurocentric curriculum”? Really? As there’s so much lynching in there? Eurocentrists did hang Tess of the D’Urbervilles, didn’t they? One comment at the Spectator site wonders:

What other ills does Eurocentric curriculum, now an ‘age-old’ concern, cause? Police beatings? Teen age pregnancies? Baldness? Yeast infections?

The author winds the piece up with a sustained call for a robust ethnic studies department, which “would do wonders to elevate and enhance dialogue, understanding, and scholarship when it comes to power and privilege.” Ethnic studies departments as universal palliatives. It might prove tempting to dismiss this as mere student op-ed puerility, but her sentiments possess broad and considerable weight in the modern university. To determined critics, any and every instance of individual racial wrongdoing is proof of the core depravity of western society. Just ask the Group of 88.