A DEGREE OF LACKING SELF-AWARENESS – I haven’t thus far blogged about the decision by the Australian National University not to host a course in Western civilisation, proposed by the Ramsey Centre. It seems now that pretty much every Australian university contacted by the Centre with the offer of assistance to run such a course has declined the opportunity, so the ANU is hardly alone here. I still would have left the matter alone, as it has been extensively commented on by the proponents and the opponents, but for me chancing upon an opinion piece posted today by News.com.au and authored by an ANU student Luke Kinsella. The piece shows such lack of self-awareness and indeed any political awareness that even the cynical me, stooped in a quarter of a century of ideological battles, experienced an involuntary eye-roll.
I’m a student at the ANU and I can tell you that this controversy has divided politically active students at the university.
Almost immediately after talks with the Ramsay Centre began, students and academics feared the program would become a magnet for Liberal Party supporters wanting to confirm their pre-existing beliefs about the superiority of Western civilisation.
And given everything we know about the Ramsay Centre, these fears aren’t completely unfounded. The centre has a branding problem among ANU students.
Former prime minister John Howard is the chairman of the organisation, and he is joined on the board by one of his successors, Tony Abbott.Earlier this year, Mr Abbott wrote in online publication Quadrant that the Ramsay Centre was “not merely about Western civilisation but in favour of it”.The degree quickly became a joke among students. Several memes were created about it, which is never a good sign. It looked like the political version of gender studies, but right-leaning.
If the project went ahead, I’m confident that the so-called “students of Western civilisation” would have been mocked their entire undergraduate careers.
The whole degree would have been ridiculed as brain training for budding conservative commentators and Liberal politicians.
That’s simply untenable. An academic program that wants to survive can’t be plagued by accusations of political bias.
You can’t just pay a university to host your own partisan political training ground. That was the backlash.
Imagine the following scenario: a cashed-up left-wing think tank offers to fund a degree in Western civilisation to a prestigious university. On the board of this think tank is Greens Party leaders, feminists and socialists.Suddenly looks like a very different degree, doesn’t it? Doesn’t look so appealing, right?
Luke, however, contrary to what you might have thought so far, actually would support some sort of a Western civilisation degree:
A degree that examines the rights and wrongs of Western civilisation might actually be the perfect degree for the times we’re living in.
Would you rather young people learn about Western civilisation from charismatic YouTube intellectuals, or experts with well-researched, balanced perspectives?
It would certainly be much better than the black-and-white status quo, in which the West is either a shining light of freedom and democracy or a racist and sexist imperial power that brings bigotry and destruction wherever it goes.
Like always, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
More than ever, students could benefit from a critical analysis of the faults and virtues of the society they live in.
What if that was the Ramsay Centre’s intention all along, and this is just one big misunderstanding? In that case, all the Ramsay Centre has to do is convince people of it.
If that’s not what they intended, they can get stuffed.
The left is the left, but the right needs to be even-handed or it can get stuffed. And the middle is the best (except it doesn’t exist). Congratulations, Luke, your tertiary education in the 21st century Australia has been highly successful.