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“Western Civ”

- Abstract

To the Editor:

In his article, “Western Civ—and Me” [August 1990], Allan Bloom takes undisguised glee in sniping at various universities such as Harvard, Duke, and Stanford whose current curricula and general ideological direction he finds unacceptable. Some of his comments about Stanford, the university I know best, are simply one-liners tossed in as rhetorical excess, as in “Join Stanford and see the world,” a comment which is a complete non sequitur to his argument at that point about Japanese culture’s ethnocentrism, but others are more serious.

At the end of his article, for example, he goes so far as to claim that in changing its curriculum, “Stanford has replaced John Locke, the philosopher of liberalism [his emphasis], with Frantz Fanon, an ephemeral writer once promoted by Jean-Paul Sartre. . . .” This cleverly sets up Bloom’s ironic finale, comparing the devotion of the Chinese students of Tiananmen Square to Western ideals with the actions of the best U.S. universities in dismissing these ideals from the curriculum. The claim, however, is factually false.

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