Tuesday, January 17, 2023


Finally, what seemed to start as an attempt to tear down the high and exceptional—great books, high culture, the ancient and modern Hellenic/European literary and philosophic tradition—has now moved on. Having debased and degraded the high, it is now in the midst of an attempt to defeat the ordinary—ordinary family life, heterosexuality, simple love of country, traditional virtues, traditional religious habits and outlooks. To do this, universities use not only their course offerings but all the controls at their disposal—regulations, codes, freshmen orientation, residential and extracurricular student life, sensitivity training, required diversity courses, the dismantling of “the canon,” and more. This is sometimes done quietly, relying more on acquiescence and acceptance than threat, though the more committed among them can, if provoked, openly turn against their own (reflect, again, on the hapless Dr. Summers).

From the start, the real goal of the multicultural movement and then the politicization of liberal learning was not simply to enrich the study of music or add to our appreciation of new poetry; the real goal was the transformation of society at every level, from high to low. In order to accomplish this goal, what previously was deemed ordinary needed now to be stigmatized. To believe, for example, that racial preferencing has no place in institutions of learning is now considered not reasonable but racist. To entertain notions of possible differences between men and women is now not only unacceptable but sexist. To think that one might learn something of value from ancient writers is now not ordinary but elitist. To think that a survey of Western civilization should be offered in a university core rather than courses sponsored by the women’s studies department or by the coalition for LGBTQA+ studies is to open yourself to charges of sexism and homophobia as well as any number of other iniquities. 

To hold to orthodox religious observances and beliefs, above all to believe in any standard religious/ethical framework, might put you at odds with current views regarding lifestyle “choices” and thus at odds with modern understandings of social justice. Especially be careful of any displays of old-fashioned patriotism or love of country. You may not be censured by your fellow students; often their souls are not so dead. But you can easily run afoul of the faculty and administration acting as diversity police, protecting international students from being affrighted by any display of possible student chauvinism. Along with the high, what was once regarded as normal has now been derided and jettisoned, and a new regime of belief has supplanted what was once merely ordinary. In all this, of course, liberal education has come out the worst. Just as dogs know the difference between being tripped over and being kicked, students know the difference between being taught and being indoctrinated, know the difference between ideas examined and ideas thrust. So, despite new requirements that mandate a certain number of liberal arts “diversity” courses, student adherence to the liberal arts continues to drop.

John Agresto, The Death of Learning [2022] (103-104). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.

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