The President of Yale University, Richard C. Levin, flew down to Dallas yesterday to appease a dismayed Lee M. Bass. The wealthy Texas investor (and Yale graduate) had donated $20 million back in 1991. Levin must now explain to Bass--three years later--why half of his money has yet to be allocated.
The gift, which was explicitly designed to support the study of Western Civilization, originally provoked controversy when it was announced amidst liberal jeers.
Now in 1994, the controversy has been re-ignited by conservatives who are upset that the important donation has been stymied. The Wall Street Journal offered an editorial in late November with the ominous title "Lost at Yale."
It is now common for the liberal intelligentsia to condemn "Western Civilization" as nothing but a euphemism for white male oppression--everything that we should be expunging from our racist, sexist, homophobic society.
The adherents of this fashion-able dogma simply dismiss reasonable arguments made by conservatives such as Yale Classics scholar Donald Kagan.
In an infamous 1991 speech to the incoming class, Kagan, who was then Yale college dean, offered some rare wisdom: it is "both right and necessary to place Western Civilization and the culture to which it has given rise, at the center of our studies, and we fail to do so at the peril of our students, our country, and the hopes for a democratic, liberal society."
Liberals at Yale are quick to point out that, even if such propaganda had any merit, there are hundreds of courses already offered in the study of Western Civilization. President Levin even wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal reminding their editorial staff that he had previously sent them a "list of 78 survey courses covering a span of a century or more of European history, literature, philosophy, religion, art, or music."
Indeed, one proud mother, Mary Ellen Wheeler, wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal offering the fact that her daughter had enrolled in something called the Directed Studies Program at Yale. The official purpose of the program is to "introduce students to the fundamental ideas of Western Civilization" by providing a "firm grounding in the Western tradition." They study the Western canon: Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Goethe, Shakespeare, etc. Even the Bible!
Given this commitment to Western Civilization, President Levin explained that the proposed plan to implement Bass's gift was rejected for the "practical, logistical and nonpolitical reason that it made inefficient use of our resources." With the plethora of courses already available, Levin reasons, new courses and faculty hires specifically for the study of Western Civilization would just be over-kill.
Well, perhaps Levin should take a better look at Mrs. Wheeler's letter applauding Yale's commitment. She let it slip that "twice as many" students applied for admission to Yale's Directed Studies Program as were admitted.
Although logic might be an insidious invention of Western Civilization, we should employ it here. Why on earth would such a popular program be limited in size? Obviously, there are not enough faculty to teach courses in Western Civilization. Yet Bass's gift was designed specifically to remedy this very problem!
Perhaps, after his Dallas trip, President Levin should fly out to the parents of each of the children who were rejected from the Directed Studies program. Levin should explain to them why he has allowed liberal ideologues at Yale to hijack their children's education.
Brad Edward White's column appears on alternate Wednesdays.