The Point

Cornell West Rebukes Howard University

05/19/21

John Stonestreet

Timothy D Padgett

Recently, an NPR story described a curriculum change at the historically African-American Howard University. The school announced that it would soon dissolve its classics department, the section of academia devoted to the Greco-Roman thinkers at the foundation of Western civilization.

In response, Harvard scholar Dr. Cornell West rebuked Howard for “diminishing the light of wisdom and truth” that inspired great black leaders like Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr. West rebuked Howard for a failure to make “the distinction between Western civilization and philosophy on the one hand, and Western crimes on the other,” calling it part of the “massive failure” in education.

Dr. West is absolutely right. Too many institutions consciously reject the accumulated wisdom of the ages, what G.K. Chesteron called “the democracy of the dead.” And the worst part of doing that, which C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery,” is the assumption that we, today, are somehow more virtuous than those in the past.

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