That the Australian National University has rejected funding to establish a Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation proves how successful the cultural-left has been in its long march through the academy.
And you can forget the argument that the reason is because the ANU is concerned about academic independence. The reality is that there is a deep seated hostility towards Western civilisation where those who defend it are condemned as ‘Eurocentric’ and guilty of promoting ‘whiteness’.
The cultural-revolution of the late Sixties heralded an attack on the status quo and signified the emergence of a rainbow alliance of theories including Neo-Marxism, postmodernism, deconstruction and feminist, gender and post-colonial theories.
As argued by the Australian academic Alan Barcan: ‘The essential feature of the cultural revolution of 1967 – 1974 was the rejection of traditional authority… The new morality favoured relativism; absolute beliefs, based on Christianity or liberal humanism, became unfashionable. Politically, a new radicalism and a new concern for minorities emerged’.
University education became a major battleground in this war of ideas. In history teaching, as noted by the Marxist-leaning Australian academic Stuart Macintyre in The History Wars, radical students and lecturers became ‘caught up in the anti-war movement’ and the ‘national liberation movements in Asia and other parts of the third world’.
The grand narrative associated with Western civilisation was jettisoned in favour of radically re-defining history by employing ‘Marxist theory to analyse the class structure and the forces that shaped it’. Feminist and postcolonial theories and what Macintyre describes as ‘history from below’ also took hold of the academy.
Academic research was conceived as ‘an emancipation of those previously excluded from the historical record’. It should not surprise that the head of the ANU College of the Arts and Social Sciences, Raelene Francis, specialises in ‘gender and labour, prostitution, war and society, ethnic and religious issues’.
Studying the Western canon has also been redefined in terms of theory. The doyen of the cultural-left in England, Terry Eagleton, in his book Literary Criticism condemns what he describes as a liberal humanist approach to literature.
Eagleton argues ‘Liberal humanism is a suburban moral ideology… it is stronger on adultery than armaments’ and ‘There is no document of culture which is also not a record of barbarism’. As a result of this theory everything from SMS messaging, graffiti, students’ own writing to Shakespeare, Patrick White and David Malouf are reduced to cultural texts to be deconstructed in terms of power relationships.
Studying English at the University of Sydney involves ‘the rise of identity politics, the culture wars and queer theory’ and under the heading Postcolonial Modernisms/Modernities how ‘race, gender, class, sexuality, nation and religion shape ideas of being modern’.
A third subject, Constructing the Fictive Self, also adopts a decidedly PC approach when stating students will learn about ‘textual representations of sexuality, race and gender in ways that are relevant to being and living in today’s world’.
Not to be outdone a fourth subject focuses on deconstructing ‘text-production as a social and ideological act’ where students have the privilege of considering the ‘ideological influences impacting on theoretical discourse about language and textuality’.
Whereas a liberal education is dedicated to what T. S. Eliot describes as ‘the preservation of learning, for the pursuit of truth, and in so far as men are capable of it, the attainment of wisdom’, university history and English departments are now committed to social engineering and cultural-left ideology.
Indoctrination has replaced the disinterested pursuit of truth and learning is no longer impartial. Dr Omid Tofighian from the University of Sydney best illustrates how studying Western civilisation is now viewed.
Both the school and the university curriculums, according to Tofighian in a comment piece on the left-leaning The Conversation, are guilty of promoting ‘whiteness’.
A curriculum that denies the experience of victim groups must be replaced by one that ‘validates the identity and cultural background of marginalised groups’.
The Dean of Arts/Head of School Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Newcastle, Catherine Coleborne, also criticises teaching Western civilisation on the basis that it is guilty of putting ‘European cultural production at its heart’.
Coleborne argues such a model is ‘deeply flawed’ as it is based on the assumption that civilisations are ‘hierarchical, with some civilisations viewed as superior to others’. Cultural relativism prevails as does the belief promulgated by the British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawn that world history must be studied as all cultures are equal.
The late Pierre Ryckmans, who taught at both the ANU and Sydney universities, in his 1996 Boyer Lectures argued universities as they were once known no longer exist.
As a result of the cultural-left’s long march, universities — with rare exceptions — are ‘doomed to founder in the shallows of farce and incoherence’.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator Australia for less – just $20 for 10 issues