Reed College has reached an agreement to revise a mandatory freshman humanities course focused on the Western Canon after protests that the course was . . . . well . . . to Western. Students denounced the curriculum as “Caucasoid” and “Eurocentric.” The decision of Reed College comes after the respected academic journal, American Historical Review announced that it was going to “decolonize” the publication. In a new column, Alex Lichtenstein, professor of history at Indiana University at Bloomington and editor of American Historical Review declared “I have come to believe that the AHR should take the risk of confronting its own potential complicity in the inability of the profession to divest itself fully of its past lack of openness to scholars and scholarship due to race, color, creed, gender, sexuality, nationality and a host of other assigned characteristics.”
We previously discussed the protests at Reed by “Reedies Against Racism” demanding “Humanities 110 – Introduction to Humanities: Greece and the Ancient Mediterranean” to be “reformed to represent the voices of people of color.”
Now the school has agreed to change its course traditionally focused on scholars underpinning Western Civilization from Aristotle to Plato to Ovid. Student Alex Boyd, complained that“I am a student of color who has trouble focusing because the curriculum at Reed is Eurocentric and is unrelated to my lived experience. Being told that the West is the most important topic of study damages my mental health and makes me less able to learn.”
Professor Libby Drumm said that “In spring 2019 two new modules will be implemented, both focused in the Americas and consisting entirely of new materials and lectures.”
However, the students reportedly are still not in agreement. Protesters want assurances that the addition of New York city in the cities covered by the course will include Harlem. They also posted a Facebook statement that they oppose starting a course with Athens or Rome because they believe that “centering the first module on Athens or Rome maintains the racist notion that the West is the key to other civilizations.”
93 thoughts on “Reed College Pledges To Revise “Western Canon” Course After Protests Over Its “Caucasoid” and “Eurocentric” Focus”
““I am a student of color who has trouble focusing because the curriculum at Reed is Eurocentric and is unrelated to my lived experience.”
The whole thing is cockamamy.
The point of literature is to experience many lives and experiences beyond your own narrow life. Why this person wants to limit themselves and their own understanding of the world is baffling, troubling, and heartbreakingly sad. They are choosing to lock themselves into a cage of their own making. A comment such as this reflects no real understanding of the Western Canon at all and what it has to offer in regards to wisdom, and this person dearly needs wisdom.
Tremendous error can also help the truth stand out more clearly. The young man protesting the canon said “Being told that the West is the most important topic of study damages my mental health and makes me less able to learn.”
I take this to mean that studying classical literature can be at least as euphoric and addictive as recreational stimulants.
Where the frig is this Reed College? If it is close then I will fly over and flush.
‘muricans aren’t much for book learning, history, literature, etc. And never have been. Just get rid the of the college humanities all together and focus on “How to make money” and science.
That’ll make everyone happy.
Not at Reed College.
Evergreen State will be next.
Not in the same league. Not even close.
CV Brown – I heard the DNC was close to broke. The RNC has $143 million. Midterms could be interesting.
– There are some Democratic Congressional candidates seeking office with very large $warchests$.
Their campaign funding ….independent of what the DNC might or might not contribute….is substantial for a lot of the Dem. candidates.
And some of the extremely wealthy Democratic challenges will use that financial clout in their campaigns.
The House could change hands in 2018, but I think the GOP will hold on to the Senate.
CV Brown – it is always nice to be an afterthought, 😉
I don’t see any comments by a CV Brown on this thread. Your invisible friend?
David Benson – our invisible hand may be cleaning the thread again 🙂 Which, of course, really leaves me as an afterthought. 😉
Like the Cheshire Cat.
David Benson – that’s me, just a tail, two eyes and a broad smile. 🙂
At least you are smiling.
David Benson – there are few people who can push my buttons and they are either married to me or are siblings. Even though I can be very aggressive, it is really an act to get my way.
Dear me! A literary reference! And, it is Eurocentric and Caucasoid no less! Eek! For shame!
Teaching the Western canon is important as a foundation — ideally it would teach students to learn from the past – and open them up to life long learning. I always wished there was a class which covered certain eras and looked at what was taking place around the world simultaneously.
OT kinda — I found this article fascinating — so many brilliant people we’ve never heard about…
The African Enlightenment
The highest ideals of Locke, Hume and Kant were first proposed more than a century earlier by an Ethiopian in a cave
Thank you for the link!
DBB – you’re quite welcome. I got it from Arts and Letters Daily which is my home page. It offers a cornucopia of interesting articles.
Thanks, Autumn. I enjoyed the link.
Zara Yaqob was educated by Catholics in Ethiopia. His education is what taught him how to reason. His Western Education based on classical principals.
What I found ironic is that after a Jesuit converted the Ethiopian King, the Ethiopian King persecuted free thinkers. Jesuits were a learned, thinking order. Their vocation was learning and their testimony scholarship.I don’t think the King quite paid attention. Ironic.
It is also interesting that the article attributes Ethiopia’s philosophy to early Greek influences.
Thus a classical education in Western civilization trains the mind how to think, and has broad applications across the globe.
I’ll have to look for an English translation of Hatata. Hopefully this article will spur a reprinting. It sounds like a very important read.
University students, take note. A Eurocentric education enabled a man to create great philosophical and intellectual works in a cave in Ethiopia.
What will happen if we excise Western humanities from our own education system?
As for your final question, nothing good.
Excellent reply, Karen!
Thank you, as well, Autumn, for the link!
This is highly interesting, and a good counter to the argument that political equality of the early modern ideal has no continuity with traditional teachings of the Christian fathers and classical pagan thought.
“I always wished there was a class which covered certain eras and looked at what was taking place around the world simultaneously.”
Susan Wise Bauer’s History of the Ancient World, as well as her other histories do just that. Her series for children (that are also on CD) do the same thing and are also excellent. I enjoy listening along with my kids.
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