I have a weakness for protest art. I’m one of the few remaining fans of Phil Ochs, arguably one of the greatest protest singers of all time. Sixty years ago, he had a friendly rivalry with Bob Dylan. To our generation, he’s virtually unknown.
When I first came to Stanford, I had high hopes for the diverse intellectual atmosphere I would encounter here. And although I have met some incredibly bright and interesting people, I feel we have lost the art of discussion around campus. Conversations lack intellectual idealism and tend to narrow viewpoints to simple binaries, leaving little room for nuance. We judge ideas solely on their practicality, and have a tendency to dismiss as out of hand controversial ideologies, decreasing our ability to effectively evaluate ideas, especially those ideas we disagree with. To put it bluntly, we seek comfort, not intellectual rigor, from our discussions both inside and outside the classroom. But in so doing, we leave our opinions unchallenged, and with it, the ability to both defend and criticize our views – a tool we cannot afford to lose at a university.
Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a welfare scheme in which all adult citizens receive a regular cash payment regardless of employment status. At first glance, it is easy to see why those self-professed bastions of American freedom – libertarians – oppose this measure so vociferously. Right-libertarians see UBI as overly generous to unemployed, able-bodied people (so called “lazy people”), and also as implying redistribution on a large scale, which conservatives see as a radical expansion of the welfare state. But the impression that UBI is exclusively leftist is a misguided one.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” These words start the American Bill of Rights and, supposedly, guarantee the freedom of speech to American citizens. While this may sound nice, America’s immemorial commitment to free speech is a simply a myth.
Stanford remains undecided on whether it should remove the name Serra on various Campus buildings and monuments. Junipero Serra was an eighteenth century missionary who founded the California Mission System and forced indigenous peoples to convert to Christianity. And earlier this month, President Marc Tessier Lavigne announced that two separate communities would deliberate on whether to retain Serra’s name.
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”