Inaugural Churchill Institute Colloquium

Tenth Annual Carl B. Menges Colloquium

 “Western Civilization, Diversity, and the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century”

Sessions and Readings


Session 1 – The Origins of the Attack on Western Civilization

Here we will start with some excerpts from Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind.  We want to trace how the attack on Western Civilization comes out of one moment of Western Civilization centering on Nietzsche and Heidegger down to Derrida and their second, third and fourth string students.  The translations of Heidegger and Derrida came in a flurry in the late 50’s till about 1970 and it shaped the intellectual cosmos we still occupy.  From Nietzsche and Heidegger the “New Left” of the 60’s took an aristocratic culture critique of bourgeois liberal capitalism.  The Diversity and Identity politics movement took instead the critique of reason.  This movement became more virulent than the New Left, which shared intellectual roots, but remained better disposed to Western Civilization and the philosophic tradition as a whole.  The attempt now became to undermine Western Civilization root and branch by deconstructing it, or as Rorty put it “changing the subject” and thereby forgetting the past.


Session 2 – Broadening and Intensification of the Attack

In this session we want to discuss how the all too Western critique of reason morphed into the the “Race, Class, Gender and Sexuality” ideology and the monologue it is creating.  We will read the Bakke decision and discuss why “Diversity” and “Affirmative Action” are two different phenomena.  We can reflect on any number of other issues like the runaway broadening of the use of Title IX, hate speech codes, new doctrines of original sin for those who don’t fit under “Diversity.”


Session 3 – Origins of the Western Liberal Arts Tradition

We will literally begin here with the “allegory of the cave” from the Republic.  This will allow us to discuss the extent to which a liberal arts education should help one transcend the particularities and accidents of existence rather than immerse one in them as with the Diversity model.  We will look at some excerpts about the relation between a liberating education and the liberty only possible in a republican setting.


Session 4 – Reconstituting the Liberal Arts in the 21st Century

In this session we should look forward to what in many instances is a task of remaking, but in almost all cases is a task of renewal.  What kinds of programs should be instituted, recreated and deleted.  We should reflect upon this in light of the effects of escalating technologies from TV to the internet and social media and how they come to constitute the new cave.  In the Trinity context, but this is only by way of an example, why do we have Urban Studies and Queer Studies but no Western Studies, no Christian Studies, no course on the American Founding or Western Civilization, no required core of books.  What kinds of programs are needed to create free and liberated individuals fit to be citizens of a free society.