The Mission of the Churchill Institute

The primary mission of the Churchill Institute will be to encourage, in every way possible, serious teaching, learning and scholarship about Western Civilization and to promote a vigorous discussion of its preservation and future trajectory.  To do so CI will promote teaching, learning and scholarship focusing on the texts and history of Western Civilization with an eye to understanding its successes, and occasional excesses.  Included will be an emphasis on the Classical origins of the Tradition, its transformation, preservation and extension through the Christian era, its further transformation with the commencement of Modernity and the growth of Modern Commercial Republicanism and the ramifications of the Postmodern attacks on the entire Tradition.

It is the watered down second- and third-hand permutations of these late Modern attacks on Western Civilization that inform most of the Culture Wars attacks on the “Great Books,” and Western Civilization more generally in its Classical, Christian and Modern permutations.  And those attacks are frequently undertaken by individuals who are unaware of their sources in late-Modern, European nihilism and the ramifications of espousing those principles.  These diluted permutations of the original texts of Nietzsche and Heidegger then go on to dominate the teaching of the young. The ramifications of that teaching lead to what the late Alan Bloom called the “Closing of the American Mind.”

The further ramifications of the contemporary attacks on Western Civilization are that they undermine the supports for Modern, Commercial Republicanism and replace that centuries-long object of aspiration with ill-defined, but surely despotic alternatives.  It matters little that that despotism might be of the “soft” kind predicted by Tocqueville, the more significant kind that leaves citizens without intermediary institutions between themselves as isolated individuals and the bureaucratic State, or the harsher forms that occur when enforced uniformity of ideas leads to inquisitions of one kind or another.

What is at stake in the loss of understanding of our Western Heritage is the eventual undermining of the basis of producing free, responsible, liberated individuals—the entire point of a liberal arts education—who can partake in open and diverse discussions of the fundamental issues of human existence that never go away.  The loss of such individuals will bring the loss of free institutions and the Republican form of government that draws from well-springs that go back to Greece and Rome and presuppose Christian norms as well as Modern principles of Liberty and Natural Rights.

Truly liberating education is at stake in our time.  It is under attack by fashionable cadres that are taking over our colleges and universities intent upon creating a monologue that first diminishes Western Civilization and then fosters forgetfulness of its very existence under the alleged charge of its uniformity of excess and repression.  But this forgetfulness only leads to fragmented individuals incapable of an integrated understanding of themselves, their world and the liberty that is possible only in truly free institutions and with a genuine liberal arts education.  The response must come at the intellectual grassroots; it must come by keeping alive the genuine alternatives to the monologue now being fostered.  And that too must be fostered at the grassroots, with as many institutes and counter-alternatives as possible.  CI longs to join those ranks.

CI will initially direct its activities to promoting its mission on the campus of Trinity College.  But CI will attempt as well to reach out successively to broader communities of alumni, parents, students, faculty, community leaders, high school and prep school students and their faculty and administrators and all interested audiences. CI will also attempt to link up with, support and offer mutual and reciprocal fructification for like-minded institutions by promoting speakers, conferences, student and faculty publications, and other appropriate venues for discussion and dissemination of the broadest and most vigorous appreciation of ideas.   By all means possible, CI will attempt to counteract the increasing one-sidedness of contemporary education and its superficial a-historicality.