April 3, 2013
“Western Civilization and the Academy” is the topic of the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 11-13 Culture and Policy Conference to be presented by the Center for Political and Economic Thought in cooperation with the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government at Saint Vincent College.
According to a recent study by the National Association of Scholars entitled The Vanishing West, undergraduate survey courses in the history and Great Books of Western civilization have all but disappeared from America’s top colleges. Such curricular change is likely symptomatic of a larger indifference or even antipathy toward the study of Western civilization at most institutions of higher learning. The NAS study concluded that “Over the last half century...American higher education has largely abandoned its narration of Western Civilization’s story.” Alternative narratives – including “multiculturalism,” “diversity,” and “sustainability” – have come to the fore in the stead of Western civilization. This conference, on “Western Civilization and the Academy,” is designed to explore the roots, extent and long-term consequences of such an educational climate.
The conference will feature nine distinguished speakers including Stephen Balch, Bruce Cole, Patrick Deneen, Anthony Esolen, Toby Huff, Rob Koons, Daniel Mahoney, Anthony O’Hear and Norma Thompson.
The program begins at 7:30 p.m. April 11 with Cole of the Ethics and Public Policy Center speaking on the topic, Can the Humanities Be Saved?
April 12 speakers include Balch of the Institute for the Study of Western Civilization at Texas Tech University, “Abounding Anomalies: On the Fragility of the Western Achievement,” at 8:30 a.m.; Mahoney of Assumption College, “One Civilization Among Many? Academic Reflections on the West and the Rest,” at 9:30 a.m.; Esolen of Providence College, “Life Under Compulsion, or Rejecting the Glorious Liberty of the Children of God,” at 10:30 a.m.; O’Hear of the University of Buckingham, “The Idea of a University?” at 12:30 p.m.; and Huff of Harvard University, “The Rise of the Universities and the Revolution of the Middle Ages,” at 1:30 p.m.
April 13 speakers are Koons of the University of Texas at Austin, “Moral Formation and the Study of Western Civilization: Can Virtue Be Taught?” at 1 p.m.; Thompson of Yale College, “Dramatizing Morality in Undergraduate Education,” at 2 p.m.; and Deneen of the University of Notre Dame, “The Connection Between Liberal and Civic Education,” 3 p.m.
All lectures will be held at the Fred M. Rogers Center on campus. Admission is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required.
Balch is director of the Institute for the Study of Western Civilization at Texas Tech University. He served for 25 years as founding president and chairman of the National Association of Scholars, a Princeton, New Jersey, based organization of higher education professionals dedicated to the traditional principles of liberal arts education. As chairman, Balch worked to encourage universities and colleges across America to develop new academic programming dealing with Western civilization, the Great Books and the study of free institutions. In 2007, he was honored by the National Humanities Medal, bestowed by President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony. Balch holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. Between 1974 and 1987, he served on the faculty of the Government and Public Administration Department of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the City University of New York. In 2009, he received the Jeane Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award. Balch has written on higher education issues for a variety of publications and co-authored “The Vanishing West: 1964-2010,” a report which documents the decline of the study of Western civilization in America’s universities.
Cole is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The author of 14 books, he has served as chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and president and CEO of the American Revolution Center. In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded Dr. Cole the Presidential Citizens Medal for “his work to strengthen our national memory and ensure that our country’s heritage is passed on to future generations.” Cole was also decorated Knight of the Grand Cross, the highest honor of the Republic of Italy. He has served as distinguished professor of art history and professor of comparative literature at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he has been on the board of trustees since his appointment by Governor Mitch Daniels in 2010. Cole has also been a member of the U.S. National Commission for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Woodrow Wilson Center board. By appointment of the U.S. Senate, he serves on the national advisory committee on institutional quality and integrity. Cole earned his bachelor of arts degree from Case Western Reserve University, a master’s degree from Oberlin College and a doctorate from Bryn Mawr College. He is a recipient of nine honorary doctorate degrees and has held many fellowships and grants.
Deneen is the David A. Potenziani Memorial associate professor of constitutional studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author or editor of several books, including The Odyssey of Political Theory and Democratic Faith. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in journals, including Political Theory, Perspectives on Political Science, Polis, First Things, and The American Conservative. He lectures widely on campuses throughout the United States and is currently working on a book manuscript tentatively entitled The American Regime.
Esolen teaches Renaissance English literature and the development of Western civilization at Providence College. A senior editor for Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, he writes regularly for Touchstone, First Things, Catholic World Report, Magnificat, This Rock, and Latin Mass. His most recent books are Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010), The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008), and Ironies of Faith (ISI Books, 2007). His Commentary on the Roman Missal is now available from Magnificat Press. Esolen is the translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy (3 volumes, Random House), Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered (Johns Hopkins University Press), and Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things (Johns Hopkins University Press).
Huff is a research associate in the department of astronomy at Harvard University and chancellor professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He is the author and editor of numerous books including Max Weber and Islam (with Wolfgang Schluchter), The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West (1993, 2nd ed. Cambridge 2003), and Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution: A Global Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2011). His book on The Rise of Early Modern Science has been translated into Arabic, Turkish, Korean and Chinese. Huff has lectured in Europe, has given talks across the Muslim world, and has lived in Malaysia and Germany.
Koons is a professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where he has taught since 1987. Koons specializes in metaphysics, philosophical logic and philosophy of religion. He is the author of two books, Paradoxes of Belief and Realism Regained, and the co-editor of the The Waning of Materialism (Oxford University Press, 2010). Koons earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy at Michigan State, a bachelor of arts degree with first class honors in philosophy and theology at Oxford and a Ph.D. at UCLA. He has written more than 30 articles and is currently working on a textbook in metaphysics for Blackwell-Wiley. He was elected in 2009 as a senator-at-large of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. From 2003-2007, Koons, together with some colleagues in philosophy and government, attempted to create a Western Civilization/Great Books program at UT-Austin. Determined opposition from the faculty in History, English and American Studies brought Koons’s efforts to an end. Since 2007, Koons has been working with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the National Association of Scholars in higher education reform efforts. Koons is the president of the Texas state chapter of NAS.
Mahoney is professor of political science at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. His areas of scholarly expertise include statesmanship, religion and politics, French political philosophy and anti-totalitarian thought. He currently serves as the Augustine Chair in Distinguished Scholarship. He is the author of books on Raymond Aron, Charles de Gaulle, Bertrand de Jouvenel, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and has edited or co-edited many books, including The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings, 1947-2005. Mahoney’s essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in a wide range of public and scholarly journals in the United States and abroad. His most recent book is The Conservative Foundations of the Liberal Order, which was published by ISI Books in 2011. In 1999, he was the recipient of the Prix Raymond Aron, an award named after the distinguished French political thinker who renewed Tocqueville’s conservative-minded liberalism and vigorously opposed totalitarianism in all its forms.
O’Hear is professor of philosophy at the University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom, director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy in London and editor of philosophy. O’Hear has authored many books and articles on philosophy and cultural topics, including Beyond Evolution (Oxford University Press, 1997), After Progress (Bloomsbury, 1999), Philosophy in the New Century (Continuum, 2001), The Great Books (ISI Books, 2008), and The Landscape of Humanity (Imprint Academic, 2008). O’Hear has acted as a senior advisor to several British governments on education and teacher training and is currently engaged in setting up a free school in London.
Thompson is associate director of the Whitney Humanities Center, senior lecturer in the humanities and director of undergraduate studies for the humanities major at Yale College. Her scholarly and teaching interests are in political philosophy and politics and literature. Thompson’s latest book is Unreasonable Doubt: Circumstantial Evidence and an Ordinary Murder in New Haven (2006). She has published two books with Yale University Press: Herodotus and the Origins of the Political Community: Arion’s Leap (1996) and The Ship of State: Politics and Statecraft from Ancient Greece to Democratic America (2001). She edited the volume Instilling Ethics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2000) and has also published in Arion, Nomos, the International Journal of the Classical Tradition, and in the festschrift for David Grene, Literary Imagination, Ancient and Modern. Her most recent article is on Herodotus and Thucydides for The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek Political Theory (2009), and her current book project is titled The Making of Character. Thompson received her A.B. from Bowdoin College and her Ph.D. from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.
The Center for Political and Economic Thought is an interdisciplinary public affairs institution of Saint Vincent College. It sponsors research and education programs, primarily in the fields of politics, economics and moral-cultural affairs. The Center seeks to advance scholarship on philosophical and policy concerns related to freedom and Western civilization with particular regard to the American experience. The Center was founded in 1991 as an outgrowth of the Alex G. McKenna Economic Education Series, which was launched in 1986. The Center’s programs include: The Alex G. McKenna Economic Education Series, the Government and Political Education Series, the Civitas Forum on Principles and Policies for Public Life, Culture and Policy Conferences and Scholarships and Fellowships. In addition, the Center supports research and educational activities through its staff and produces numerous publications. The Center is part of the Alex G. McKenna School of Business, Economics and Government.
Photos: Stephen Balch, Bruce Cole, Patrick Deneen, Anthony Esolen, Toby Huff, Rob Koons, Daniel Mahoney, Anthony O’Hear, Norma Thompson
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