When the Left started to pull down iconic American statues, and the “cancel culture” started ingesting steroids, I asked a left-leaning friend what he would do if they started going after literature, art, and music. He responded that when that happens he would “join our side of the protest lines.”
Sadly, that ominous time seems to be approaching. A bit of background is needed first.
Back in the 1950s, under the guidance of American philosopher Mortimer Adler, the University of Chicago published a book list called “The Great Books of the Western World.” This list became the curriculum foundation for many great schools: including Columbia University and the University of Chicago. Sadly, since the 1960s, that is no longer the case.
In 1987, a University of Chicago professor, Alan Bloom, published an insightful book called “The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of American Students.” In this book, Bloom argued that the abandoning of the Great Books curriculum would destroy the ability to make educated decisions on what is right and what is wrong. He points out, quite correctly, that the 1960s radicals only looked at authors whose views attacked traditional American values. Instead, these radicals felt that they had all they needed to learn with Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, and Darwin. Any works that promoted traditional Judeo/Christian morality should be ignored.
Sadly, these same 1960s students now dominate media, education, government, entertainment, the arts, and sports. And they have now taken their views to the extreme in that anyone who embraces traditional religious and liberal ideas need to be banned.
Here, for a moment, we need to define what classical liberalism is as opposed to the progressivism of today. Traditional liberalism embraces a strong diversity of ideas and rejects anything that impedes liberty and the rights of the individual. Progressivism is the total opposite of classical liberalism.
Make no mistake: today’s university is no longer embracing classical liberalism but is replacing it with the radicalism and progressivism of the 1960s. in effect, they are symbolically burning any book that does not embrace that radicalism. Just last week, Leicester University banned Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” and “Beowulf” in order to remove classical “Western” works that they claim promotes western imperialism, capitalism, and chauvinism. The University of Pennsylvania will no longer promote the works of Shakespeare, and San Francisco has now removed the name Abraham Lincoln from a public school.
We have replaced classical liberal views with intolerance and cancel culture. Those who embrace traditional values are now called “insurrectionists” and “deplorables” that need “reprogramming.” Unless we embrace this “cancel culture” we need, ourselves, to be “cancelled.” There is even a discussion making its way around the internet whether Beethoven is elitist and should be cancelled. The NY Post had an editorial that proclaimed “Canceling Beethoven is the latest work madness for the classical-music world.”
Perhaps we should discuss and debate Marx’s “Worker’s Paradise,” Freud’s philosophy of “Religion as an Illusion,” Darwin’s theory of Evolution, and Nietzche’s “Superman.” In the end, truth can stand up to discussion and becomes stronger as the result.
Universities and today’s progressives are afraid of open discussion because, deep down, they know their ideas cannot stand up to critical scrutiny and no holds barred discussion.
Maybe it is time for my friend to join our side of the protest line.