Yesterday, The Stanford Review released a manifesto and petition calling for the reintroduction of a Western Civilization requirement. Here are some quotes from the manifesto that particularly struck me:
“We do not wish to ignite unnecessary controversy.”
I want to believe The Stanford Review here, but I can’t bring myself to do so. It seems as though all of this “controversy” could’ve been avoided had The Review paid any attention to campus climate. Many students are extremely passionate about diversifying campus in all of its spheres: student body, faculty, administration, etc. Either The Review’s editors have not been paying attention to us, or they actually do wish to ignite unnecessary controversy.
“Western societies have the best track record in enhancing individual well-being. “
I would love to see where TSR got the data for this. Whoever came up with this conclusion did not ask people of color, trans and genderqueer folks, people in low-income communities or anyone who is strategically and directly oppressed by Western society. Western values have created numerous overlapping systems of oppression that destroy the well-being of many individuals daily.
”Stanford students lack the historical context necessary to grasp the implications of their technological innovations …”
Speak for yourselves. Many of us, especially those of us who had no other option but to learn our history on our own since we saw no representation in the Western school system, are very well aware of historical context, and we do not need The Review to patronize us.
”Western values unshackled millions in other cultures from oppression.”
Western values put millions in shackles in the first place. A brief and not-at-all encompassing list of historical examples includes genocide of indigenous populations, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Japanese internment camps, sex trafficking in the Vietnam and Korean wars, etc. I encourage TSR to do some research to add to this list.
”Though many cultures influence our lives and our society, none remotely match the Western tradition’s influence. Its values guide our institutions and culture; its sins compel myriads of reform efforts and activist movements to action. Stanford’s common civilization requirement should focus solely on Western tradition.”
I wonder what The Review’s editors think about why they believe that no other culture “remotely match[es] the Western tradition’s influence.” I would boil it down to rampant Eurocentrism and the countless strategic efforts to literally eradicate any other culture that attempts to exist in what the Western world deems as its own. Would we be discussing this in Western Civilization class?
”Take, for example, the recent campus protests at Mizzou and Yale that captivated national attention. Major controversy erupted over free speech, but for debates on the issue to be meaningful, students must understand how individual rights to expression transformed over millennia.”
If The Review’s editors truly believe that free speech was the biggest issue that came out of the student demands from Mizzou and Yale, they clearly were not listening. The students from Mizzou and Yale (and many other universities in the country), ironically enough, demanded national attention to address racism on college campuses and a call for more representation of the experiences of people of color. As a student who is personally affected by both of these issues, I find it extremely disrespectful that TSR would silence the voices of marginalized students by claiming the protests as issues of free speech.
”Additionally, although the values espoused in these texts have certainly not been equally applied, the values themselves transcend race, gender, nationality and socioeconomic status. They are universal ideals.”
Many of us who carry marginalized identities in any or all of the listed realms are extremely aware of these identities every moment of every day and of how those identities relate to Western ideals. By assuming that Western ideals are universal ideals, TSR has erased the existence of non-Western ideals, in true Western-colonialist fashion. Western values do not transcend our identities; they dictate how our identities manifest in the spaces that we occupy. We are aware that our values were stolen from us, and that we are expected to uphold Western values. We don’t need to learn about Western civilization and its ideals, because we have spent every moment of our lives resisting and fighting to live and love ourselves, so that we can transcend Western values.
I am deeply disturbed that some of my peers have the audacity to disrespect the Stanford community in such a way. To be fair, as many others have mentioned, I could get behind this if it were framed as understanding Western civilization in order to deconstruct it — that is, understanding Western values so that we could better understand oppression and marginalization. However, based on this manifesto, it seems as though The Stanford Review has no intention of doing so. This proposition aims to promote Western values in order to establish the superiority of Western values. Because of this, I fundamentally do not, cannot and will never support this initiative, as it actively participates in my dehumanization and the dehumanization of my communities.
– Mara Chin Loy
Contact Mara Chin Loy at tchinloy ‘at’ stanford.edu.