The historical annals are replete with narratives of student heroism. The global uprising of 1968 which challenged capitalism, American imperialism, and contemporary gender and sexual norms was foremost a revolt of students. In France the memory of May 1968 endures as a moment when university students almost created a revolution while, in the States, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) flourished, mobilizing hundreds of thousands at the height of anti-Vietnam protests. But tales of student activist prowess are not limited to the New Left of 1968. The two most prominent revolts against Soviet authority – the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and Prague Spring – very prominently featured students. Even Stanford has an illustrious history of student protest, having played an important role in the movement to divest from Apartheid South Africa in the late 1970s. At their most valiant, students have articulated nuanced and insightful politics, and have led national, and even global, insurrectionary movements.
At the last G20 summit, Xi Jinping informed Theresa May that Britain and China must ‘shelve their differences’ over Hong Kong. Xi could not be more correct. Britain has been in a state of perpetual decline since its superpower heyday in 1914. During the 20th century, Britain ceded its empire and global status without formulating a new role on the global stage. Britain’s historically backward outlook suddenly appeared to shift in 2015 with the declaration of the creative and forward-looking ‘Golden Age’ of British-Chinese relations. Predictably, Britain has since backtracked. To prevent a directionless twenty-first century, Britain must look back to China.
‘What did Mahatma Gandhi think of black people?’ ‘The Gandhi None of us knew’ ‘The Real Karl Marx.’ ‘What did MLK think about gay people?’ A recent spate of articles has emerged across the liberal media – from the Washington post to the Huffington Post to the New York Times – tearing down the great saints of the historical left on the basis of their racist, sexist, and homophobic views. And it is indeed true that Gandhi et al. held troubling beliefs.
In recent years, right-wing student groups and publications have portrayed themselves as the sole bastions of free speech against barbarous hordes of social justice warriors. It is undeniable that there exists a dearth of meaningless discourse on liberal campuses. Yet the right-wing cause of free speech has been dangerous and hypocritical; conservative students have championed the right to polemicize demagogically and thoughtlessly rather than to engage in impactful discussion. Most troublingly, the campus Right across America has enabled and legitimized a terrifying alt-right in their impulsive and self-righteous pursuit of free speech. It is high time for the Left to recapture the cause of free speech.
Fear of China runs deep in the American psyche, as particularly evident during the recent 19th Party Congress. The New York Times declared with typical American hubris, ‘Seven Men Now Run China’ and ‘China Enshrines ‘Xi Jinping Thought,’ Elevating Leader to Mao-like status.’ These sensationalist headlines obscure a worrying truth: China now functions better politically than America.
Yesterday, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell released a statement entitled ‘Advancing Free Speech and Inclusion.’ Their defence of free speech was balanced, thoughtful and incisive. Indeed, it is difficult to take exception to the idea that ‘Freedom of inquiry and the free expression of ideas are fundamental to the mission of the university.’ And more importantly, the statement recognizes that the university experience encompasses so much more than the classroom. As the President and Provost wrote, ‘our strength as a university derives from our diversity.’ This diversity cannot be limited to nationality, race and gender. It must also include political and experiential diversity, meaning right and left wing thought that lies outside the narrow bounds of the Stanford liberal consensus.
In the 1980s, protestors at Stanford successfully petitioned the university to remove its ‘Western Culture’ requirement on the basis of the reading list’s ‘European-Western and male bias.’ When in 2016 the then-editor of the Stanford Review, Harry Elliot, tried to have the old Western Civilization requirement re-instated, he was met with similar cries of colonialism and racism. The ultimate failure of the Review’s campaign was greeted with great delight by the prevailing left-liberal consensus on campus. This was to some extent understandable; the Review’s campaign seemed to implicitly suggest that Western thought was superior to the canonical works of other regions.
Continue reading “The Left-Wing Case for a Western Civilization Requirement”
President Trump’s 2016 election victory must rank as one of the most significant and impressive political movements of the past half-century. This momentous election has so many diverse meanings; the bankruptcy of the Democratic Party in its current liberal, identity politics guise; the rise of the specter of white nationalism; the decline of American liberal democracy amidst the broader demise of the Western world order that has governed so autocratically for the past few centuries.