The closing of the American mind
The English faculty at Leicester University recently decided to expunge works such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Beowulf from their curriculum. They hoped that removing classical "Western" works from their curriculum would attract more students. That decision accentuates a trend that has been underway in American colleges, too: eliminating courses that many students claim glorify Western imperialism, capitalism, and chauvinism. The students, and often faculty, demand that colleges take down portraits and statues as well. The University of Pennsylvania removed a portrait of Shakespeare that had graced the walls for years. Not to be outdone, the San Francisco Board of Education removed Abraham Lincoln's name from a public school.
In 1987, Alan Bloom published his insightful book, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of American Students. Bloom taught at the University of Chicago, which published the Great Books of the Western World series. The Great Books series has served as a basic curriculum in colleges that offer the Great Books program, most notably the University of Chicago and Columbia University.
Bloom argued that American students have become impoverished in the soul because they no longer engage with the classics of Western civilization. The Great Books program presents writings from influential authors regardless of whether their views are radical, liberal, conservative, atheistic, or theistic. The editors trust that, with open liberal education, students will have the ability to make educated decisions on what is right and what is wrong. That is the heart of liberal education. The slogan is "Let the great conversation take place."
Radical students of the 1960s did not subscribe to that commitment. Because they were sure that their revolutionary Marxian, Freudian, Nietzschean, and Darwinian views contained all truth, they sought to cancel any other views, especially religious views. They directly assaulted traditional American values of God, family, and nation. They treated with disdain anything related to traditional Christian morality.
During the 34 years since Bloom published his book sounding an alarm about the closing of the American mind, what he feared has come to pass. The students so ill served in the 1980s and beyond have taken their revolution outside of academia. Now they dominate in media, education, government, entertainment, the arts, and sports. Not only have they fully embraced the radical atheistic ideas of Marx, Freud, Darwin, and Nietzsche, but they refuse to permit anyone who embraces traditional religious and liberal ideas to work in those institutions.
The university is no longer a place of liberal education in the best sense of the term. It will not give all ideas a fair hearing, it figuratively burns books, and it routinely bars speakers. Only those who advance the radical atheistic left are welcomed. Worse, universities use all means necessary to protect and advance leftist hegemony.
So there you have it. That is the reason for cancel culture, with its intolerance for traditional religious moral views. Cancel culture is at war with the core American culture of God, family, and community. It wars with the view that America has a special mission in God's Providence to be a City on a Hill. Its acolytes disdain the people, whom they once called deplorable and now label as insurrectionists. Cancel culture's practitioners know better than the people because they have the "correct" ideology.
But they are wrong. The truth will withstand open discussion, freedom of expression, and public debate. In fact, the truth becomes clearer during that discussion. The ideologues who hold that we are merely evolving animals who rise to the top through survival of the fittest; that religion is a cancer that must be removed; that we are driven by sexual impulses, not divine sentiments; and that the masses must be ruled by the dictatorship of the proletariat are wrong. Those ideologues will fail because those ideas are false.
Today's censorship by Big Tech social media, the Deep State, universities, print and broadcast media, corporations, and government resulted from the Closing of the American Mind that began in our nation's universities during the 1960s. The remedy is to reopen the Great Conversation. Let's discuss Marx and his Worker's Paradise. Let's discuss Freud and his Religion as Illusion. Let's discuss Darwin and his Theory of Evolution. Let's discuss Nietzsche and his idea of the Superman. Let's discuss all that ideas and more in light of the Great Books of the Western World. And let's bring in the rest of the world's classics. Let's have a free and open, no holds barred, discussion. In that way, we can reinvigorate the America I know and love.
Image: Classic books by Suzy Hazelwood. CC0 Public Domain.