"Best Practices in Teaching Western Civilization" was the topic for an all-day workshop hosted at Colorado Christian University by the Centennial Institute on April 16. Over 30 educators from across the state, representing five colleges and three high schools, took part. President Bill Armstrong summoned the gathering to build on CCU's new curriculum requirement for every freshman to take Western Civ as a cornerstone for subsequent courses in whatever major the student eventually chooses. In keynoting the day, Armstrong challenged participants to work against the "intellectual Alzheimer's" that threatens our heritage of liberty. Someone remarked that the militant multicultural assault on traditional curriculum in the 1980s, led by Jesse Jackson at Stanford and other prestige universities, needs to have its slogan turned around so as to demand, "Ho ho, hey hey, Western Civ has got to stay."
Program materials for the April 16 workshop are here... western civ colloquium 041610.doc (55.50 kb) Some photos are below.
From afar: Centennial's John Andrews welcomes Mohd Rozi Ismail (L), a Malaysian graduate student at Colorado State University, and Florian Hild (R), an American citizen born in Germany who is now headmaster of Ridgeview Classical Schools in Fort Collins
"Making It Work in the 21st Century" was the topic for Prof. Timothy Fuller, a political scientist from Colorado College.
Prof. Vincent McGuire of the Center for Western Civilization at CU-Boulder led a discussion on collaboration at the college level and with high schools.
Dr. Philip Mitchell of the CCU History Department chaired a student focus group on experiences in last fall's Western Civ course.
The Aeneid, Virgil's epic poem of the founding of Rome, provides a "gateway to civilization" for every thoughtful reader through its exploration of timeless truths of the human condition, a CCU audience was told on March 15. Dr. Michael Poliakoff, a classics scholar with degrees from Michigan and Oxford who recently served as vice president for academic affairs at the University of Colorado, spoke at the latest Issue Monday forum of the Centennial Institute. The moral and ethical struggles of Aeneas in love and war illustrate an attitude of "humility, skepticism, doubt, debate, and self-examination" that equips us for civilized life together because it "recognizes we are imperfect beings," Poliakoff said. A maturing effect comes from grappling with the poem's lessons, he argued, noting C. S. Lewis's observation that "no man who has once read it with full perception remains an adolescent." We can even see in Virgil's model of conduct for the individual and society a point of congruence between Greco-Roman thought and Judeo-Christian thought, suggested Poliakoff -- since the pagan idealism of the Aeneid aligns closely with the biblical injunction to."do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God" (Micah 6:8). Michael Poliakoff's lecture slides are linked here. A full audio podcast of his talk is linked here.
(Denver Post, Dec. 27) Remember those times when we thought the world had changed, but it hadn’t? Eight years ago after jihadists attacked the US homeland, and again last year after America elected its first black president, the talk of “forever different” was soon quieted by life’s old patterns. The world does not change, because human nature does not.
But an event that did change the world occurred 2000 years ago in the stable at Bethlehem. Religious differences aside, the earthquake of Jesus’ coming is historical fact. The idea of all persons created equal, all endowed with dignity and liberty, arrived with him and has gained steadily ever since. This makes our seasonal celebrations, both sacred and secular, most fitting.
Among them is the parlor game of tallying up who made a difference in the old year, amid the gusts of forgettable news and fleeting celebrity. In 2009 the very word “change” devolved from a mantra into a punchline. Yet certain individuals had an impact that deserves recognition as the calendar turns. Editors at Time and Sports Illustrated have crowned their national honorees. On behalf of Rocky Mountain conservatives, here’s my award for Coloradan of the Year.
Who would you choose? And by what yardstick would you decide? I took as jurors Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Grant, spiritual fathers under whose wise and brave influence our state was born. We looked for distinguished contributions by fellow citizens in keeping Colorado true to its heritage. The field was broad and bipartisan.
This was the year that Mike Coffman, Iraq veteran twice over, took his war-fighting savvy to Congress. Ken Salazar, son of the San Luis Valley, became steward of all the nation’s public lands. Douglas Bruce left public office but remained a potent force for limited government through his TABOR legacy. Peter Groff, descendant of slaves, took charge of faith-based programs for schoolkids across the country.
None of them, however, made our top-10 finalists. Nor did Jim Tracy, the managerial wizard who electrified Rockies fans, or Michael Bennet, the education wizard who vaulted into the Senate. Nor did leftist campaign financier Tim Gill or Islamist plotter Najibullah Zazi – though jurors sent them backhanded thanks for puncturing the complacency of many.
As finalists for 2009, the jury salutes Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute, laughing lancer of liberty; Joe Blake of Colorado State, common-sense businessman turned university president; and Mayor Hickenlooper along with Congressman Salazar, two solid Johns who remind us not all Democrats are loony liberals.
Plus Philip Anschutz, philanthropist, media mogul, and rising GOP rainmaker; Vincent Carroll, senior pundit of the right at the old Rocky and now here at the Post; Dick Wadhams, quarterback of the state’s impending Republican revival; James Dobson, radio hall-of-famer and hero of the American family; and Jane Norton, new voice of women conservatives in the West.
But last and loudest, as Coloradan of the Year, we applaud Archbishop Charles Chaput. He did the state proud as a leading signer of the Manhattan Declaration on sanctity of life, dignity of marriage, and defense of religious liberty. His book “Render unto Caesar” is a timely guide to principled citizenship in a nation under God. Four centuries of Americans who pushed westward from the Old World’s exhaustion to the New World’s promise would recognize in Chaput a friend to their souls.
I’m not a Catholic, and some of my ghostly jurors were but hesitant Christians; yet no matter. The good archbishop models self-government and self-giving for Coloradans of all faiths. Tempted to believe we live by bread and circuses rather than by truth and love, our state is continually reminded otherwise by this fearless prelate. Soldier of civilization, man of backbone, Charles Chaput will live in grateful memory many Christmases from now.
('76 Editor) Good news. Death is on defense this week. That’s a big reason for the excitement about Christmas and Hanukkah. It should make these holidays welcome even among people who don’t share the biblical beliefs they represent. And it should humble the believers themselves. Civil harmony would benefit. “Merry Christmas” and “Peace on Earth” are still annually proclaimed in lights on the City and County Building, after Denver’s mayor decided against substituting something generic a few years ago. Following a similar bout of hesitation, small-town EnGolden still has its menorah display. We all ought to cheer if we love life.
The Christian faith, along with the Jewish tradition from which it grew, has enlivened our civilization through the centuries with a message of unshakable hope for the human future. The Old and New Testaments argue for an eternal reality in which the grave is not the last word. America as we know it is more humane, dynamic, and purposeful as a result. That’s well worth a celebration every December.
Long before Jesus or Moses, of course, rituals of rebirth were observed at this time of year as the life-giving sun starts its comeback and the days lengthen. So if you prefer a winter solstice festival, fine. Solar cycles will always be with us. But they don’t put death on defense as Christmas and Hanukkah do.
“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” says the fatalism that believes bodily existence is all there is. Scripture contradicts it. Economic guru John Maynard Keynes gave the modernist version when he shrugged, “In the long run, we’re all dead.” Don’t be so sure, say the faithful.
Hope of immortality through their descendants was already a given for the Jews among whom Jesus was born. Many also believed in a bodily resurrection. Christ’s followers were sure of it. Correct or not, that meant conducting themselves in this world so as to be worthy of the next. Moral seriousness grew. All of society felt the gentling effect.
If death cancels life, period, why shouldn’t might make right? Why shouldn’t ethics begin and end with “if it feels good, do it”? It’s different if eternal punishment awaits brutality and tyranny. New incentives come with expecting we’ll have to live forever with the consequences of how we treat each other. This was the awesome force of good that arrived with the baby in the manger.
The Romans who ruled Bethlehem, like the Magi who brought gifts, idealized justice but never knew its author. Knowledge of “the Supreme Judge of the World,” as the Declaration of Independence calls him, is uniquely the Judeo-Christian contribution to history. The result was a vast increase in motivation for achieving peace on earth through goodwill to men.
Peace and justice are far from realized, as each day’s headlines attest. But infanticide, genocide, slavery, and the subjugation of women, once accepted, are now condemned. Freedom and democracy, once rare, are spreading. Heartless death-dealing and all kinds of living death are lessening in our world because of the Hebrew girl’s son who was “born that man no more may die.”
Think about it. Every news story about economic relief or homeless shelters or animal rescue bespeaks a life-affirming ethos that is the very opposite of Lord Keynes’s “dead in the long run” callousness. We’re that way partly because of a faith tradition that sees past death.
As for the so-called Christmas wars, isn’t government or commercial sanction of Jesus’ birthday a false issue? He asked for nothing of the kind. He did ask us who follow him to be more childlike, less demanding. Faithful and unfaithful alike need to lighten up. After all, many believe the light of the world is here – and they don’t just mean the solstice.
For 500 years the Ottoman Empire had dominated the Middle East and the Balkans. Their domain stretched from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, from the Sahara to the Crimea. Their vast armies several times besieged Vienna and for centuries plundered southern Russia for slaves. But by the end of the 19th century they were called “the sick man of Europe”. What caused the collapse of this mighty empire?
Turkish sultans ruling from Constantinople realized that to keep up with the West they needed to modernize. Lacking the productivity and economic dynamism of Europe, they borrowed from western banks in an effort to bring their military and civilian infrastructure to western levels. By 1881 Turkish debt to the West exceeded £200 million, forcing the government into bankruptcy. A council was set up to manage the debt, but six of its seven members were agents of Western banks. All revenues from government monopolies and tariffs were turned over to this council to repay the foreign debt. The result was increased penetration by Western financial interests in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire.
Power gradually transferred from the sultan to western financial interests. The Sultan was forced to lift tariffs on British imports, especially British cloth mass produced more cheaply in the mills of England. This destroyed local cloth manufacturing and further crippled the economy of the Middle East. This massive debt allowed the West to justify seizing other Ottoman assets like banks, irrigation projects, public utilities, and even entire provinces within the Ottoman Empire.
Egypt, an autonomous Ottoman province, owed £68 million to English creditors by 1876. To recoup their investment the British government seized Egyptian shares in the Suez Canal and forced Egypt to make further capitulations. The governor of Egypt, Ismail Pasha, was forced from office and the country was run by Western (primarily British) banking interests. Soon Egypt was transferred from the Ottoman to the British Empire. Other provinces, like Yemen and Kuwait, soon followed.
What had been for many centuries the greatest empire in the world, became so burdened with debt that they dwindled away with hardly a whimper. Unable to pull themselves out of the spiral of ever-increasing red ink, they were relegated to economic dependency and semi-colonial status.
What can be learned from the Ottoman experience of debt and dissolution?
The United States is now deep in debt to China. If (and when) we default on that debt, what assets will China seize? Our government is now the principle shareholder in General Motors. Will the Chinese seize GM, or even the IRS? Will they control our banks and utilities? Will they control our entire economy in order to insure repayment of our debt? Will they force our president from office and appoint a council of Chinese bankers to rule in his place? Will America be relegated to economic dependency and colonial status? How did we get ourselves in this situation, and is there any way to get ourselves out?
Women Warriors & Human Nature: All honor to the fallen Lt. Roz Schulte. Not sure I could have done what she did in life and in death.
But I believe a well-ordered society that respects human nature will treasure its women as irreplaceable life-bearers, biologically and spiritually called to that high role in perpetuating humankind. It will not lower them with training to inflict mass violence or carelessly waste their gift by sending them to kill or be killed.
The occasional warrior queens and heroic fighting women, such as the biblical Deborah or the medieval Joan of Arc, are but the exceptions that prove this rule.
Much as I love America, it concerns me that our governance is ever more utopian, ever less attuned to human nature.