As America’s universities are increasingly going down the road of denigrating and ignoring the heritage of the Western civilization, paradoxically, China, which truly appreciates Western culture, may become its last refuge, columnist David Goldman argues in an op-ed for PJMedia.
The starting point of the commentary is a tweet by renowned Israeli-American historian and grand strategist Edward Luttwak.
China is focusing on values, while the US is turning to Woke Culture
In his Twitter posting, Luttwak points out that 11 Chinese universities are already teaching Latin and Ancient Greek, while 20 more universities in China are hiring new staff in order to do the same.
At the same time, Luttwak notes, in the United States, the Classics Department of Princeton University has abolished its Greek or Latin requirement as a means of addressing “systemic racism”!!
Luttwak goes on to ask rhetorically, with great sarcasm, why the Classics Department isn’t abolished altogether for being “truly racist”, considering there are jobs available for its staff in the “Middle Kingdom”, i.e. China.
After quoting the distinguished grand strategist’s tweet, the columnist further emphasizes how Princeton has caused an uproar with its decision to abolish the requirement that its Classics majors actually learn Ancient Greek or Latin.
That has seen Princeton following in Harvard’s steps after back in 2017 the latter ditched the requirement that its music majors actually study music theory – which plays the same role in music as vocabulary and grammar play in language.
Against that backdrop, up to 100 million Chinese children are studying piano, plus more who are taking orchestral instruments.
The columnist notes that classical music is flourishing in China as well as in other East Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan, with Asian children and parents eager to embrace what is a most typically Western art form.
The growing popularity of classical music and Classics studies in Chinese universities is deemed beyond remarkable, and is seen as an eloquent demonstration of the gigantic interest that China harbors for Western philosophy.
Peking University is China’s Harvard
The columnist cites as an example an undergraduate philosophy syllabus at Peking University, dubbed the Chinese Harvard, which could be the envy of any American university worthy of the name.
Thus, the specific syllabus boasts three courses on Plato, two on Aristotle, five on Hegel, four on Kant, three on Nietzsche, a couple of courses on John Rawls, two others on set theory, and a whopping 22 courses on logic.
Other courses include, naturally, Chinese philosophy plus numerous courses on Marxism (although the columnist surmises those aren’t probably very popular).
Why is it that Chinese undergraduates are being offered such an immersion into the mind of Western civilization – including Latin, Ancient Greek, and Continental European thought?
The columnist gives a very categorical and straightforward answer: unlike the notoriously, regrettably shifting paradigms in US higher education in which the West is increasingly being portrayed as evil, China does actually appreciate Western civilization’s culture and the creativity that is has fostered historically.
Thus, learning Western culture’s music and philosophy is greatly encouraged.
The West is destroying itself
Under early communist leader Mao Zedong, the People’s Republic of China underwent a disastrous “cultural revolution” which destroyed its universities, with leading academics getting exiled to the countryside to “learn” from the wisdom of the peasants, as crazy as it seems.
The columnist cites a Chinese acquaintance of his as stating that it is the West that now seems to be experiencing such as “cultural revolution” plagued with “criticism and self-criticism” over what is described as “systemic racism.”
With the best and brightest in the West seek to invent the next top app, the West risks meeting the fate of the Ancient Greeks after they were conquered by the Roman Empire: having lost direction, the intellectually superior Greeks had succumbed to the Romans who preserved Ancient Greek culture by absorbing the parts that they considered useful to them.
Paradoxically, then, it is China that may become the final refuge of top Western civilization’s achievements such as classical music, classical philology, and Western philosophy – as the West is shocking burning down the culture that it created and that let it build itself up.