Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

A response to The Review’s Western Civilization petition

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.

  • skullbreathe

    Ms. Choy rants about the ills Western Civilization from Stanford; one of the greatest universities and living experiences in the ‘Western World.’ The absurdity of her whining is obviously lost on her..

  • seems_obvious

    The Review is right, They didn’t argue that Western culture is perfect, so giving a few counterexamples doesn’t win the argument. In addition, most Stanford students will live in a Western culture, so understanding the history and tradition should be step one in determining how best to improve it.

  • AYang99

    There is no absurdity in her “whining” (if you can even call it that!), skullbreathe. Living in the “western world” doesn’t mean you are forced to learn about and examine only one world view at the expense of including other, non-European societies – which is what the Western Civilization mandate by the Review essentially boils down to. I’m afraid you haven’t done your research on the history of the Western Civilization course, which itself is a racist byproduct of World War I and II biases against the “barbaric east” that consisted first of Germany, then of Russia, and then in general any non-European, non-white society.

  • Student

    Beautiful!! Thank you 🙂

  • Prg234

    Sadly, you seem to imply that universal human maladies are somehow related only to Western cultures and traditions. Please look around the world and examine the way in which racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation, and other minorities are treated in non-Western cultures and traditions. In fact, your impassioned critique/dissent itself fits neatly into the best traditions of Western culture and philosophy. The same critique would likely lead to ostracism, persecution, imprisonment, or worse in many other world cultures.

  • long face

    “Western values put millions in shackles in the first place.”
    Slavery was a state of normalcy across the world. It was the Western civilization that called into question morality of it.
    http://www.deadcatsandclippings.com/?page_id=321

  • openYourEyes

    “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.”

    Have you travelled, at all? Go to almost any non-Western country IN THE WORLD and try to find an openly trans individual. Go to any non-Capitalist Country IN THE WORLD and ask their poor what avenues they can even conceive of to lift themselves out of poverty. Go to almost any non-Western country IN THE WORLD and ask their marginalized populations if they aren’t oppressed by their society, if their society even allows them to protest or identify their marginalization openly.

    These issues exist everywhere and in every society & culture throughout history, but Western society & its much criticized “systems”, TODAY, are the most conducive to progressive change. That is a fact.

  • openYourEyes

    Sorry I must have missed where it forces you to only examine one civilization? My understanding was that it was a two-quarter one-class requirement to learn about the ideals that most affect your World today (which they do, no matter how much you may hate that fact). I believe that this proposal would, however, leave you free to pursue your interests in other civilizations with your remaining 20-some classes. I’m afraid you haven’t done your research on the proposal at hand.

  • Douglas Levene

    If you were serious about learning about non-Western civilization, you would be in favor of requiring students to study (in addition to Western Civ) a foreign language and the history and classical literature of that foreign country. For example, students could study Japanese and read the Genji Monogatari or Sanskrit and the Baghavad Gita. You don’t want that because in fact you don’t really give a rat’s a** about non-Western civilizations and have no interest in immersing yourself in the great thoughts and literature produced by them – all you really care about is proving how oppressive Western civilization and free markets are.

  • Ruairi AK

    If you support the initiative for a greater emphasis on the humanities at Stanford but don’t necessarily endorse the Review’s “Western Civilizations Core” proposal, sign this alternative petition here: http://chn.ge/1LiUGlZ

  • Grant Horne

    I can’t believe ninnies like you are the ones who will be taking care of me in old age. The mind boggles.

  • Frans Alexander

    Mara Chin Loy, of course, inhabits a Western country, because they are the best countries in almost all respects. Most of the greatest achievements in history were European, see Charles Murray’s book, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950, and Ricardo Duchesne’s The Uniqueness of Western Civilization.

  • Frans Alexander

    China is still a hell hole, and that is why Asians crave to live in white created countries, and as I said above, almost all the great accomplishments in history in all the Arts and Sciences were by Europeans.

  • Frans Alexander

    Don’t worry, kiddo, Europeans invented proper history writing and wrote proper histories of all non-white nations, and all the disciplines you see taught at universities were invented by whites. See my above comments, read the books I mentioned, and get educated.

  • Frans Alexander

    Sorry, almost everything great in this world came from Europeans:
    From Wiki article on Murray’s book, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950:

    Murray ranks the leading 4,000 innovators in several fields of human accomplishment from 800 BC to 1950. In each field Murray identifies a number of sources (leading encyclopedias, histories and surveys) providing information about the leading figures in the field. The rankings are made from information in these sources. A raw score is determined based on how many sources mention and on how much space in each source is devoted to a person. Then these raw scores are normalized so that the lowest score is 1 and the highest score is 100. The resulting scores are called “Index Scores”.

    The categories of human accomplishment where significant figures are ranked in the book are as follows: Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Physics, Mathematics, Medicine, Technology, Combined Sciences, Chinese Philosophy, Indian Philosophy, Western Philosophy, Western Music, Chinese Painting, Japanese Art, Western Art, Arabic Literature, Chinese Literature, Indian Literature, Japanese Literature, and Western Literature. The omission of several relative categories, including a broader Chinese art category or an Indian art category, are due to a lack of identifiable figures as most of the work is anonymous.

    The following are some examples of the rankings found for individual categories.

    Top Figures by Field[edit]

    Combined Sciences[edit]

    Figure Index score

    Isaac Newton 100

    Galileo Galilei 89

    Aristotle 78

    Johannes Kepler 53

    Antoine Lavoisier 51

    René Descartes 51

    Christiaan Huygens 49

    Pierre-Simon Laplace 48

    Albert Einstein 48

    Michael Faraday 46

    Louis Pasteur 46

    Ptolemy 43

    Robert Hooke 41

    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 40

    Ernest Rutherford 40

    Leonhard Euler 39

    Charles Darwin 37

    Jöns Jacob Berzelius 36

    Euclid 36

    James Clerk Maxwell 35

    Astronomy[edit]

    Figure Index score

    Galileo Galilei 100

    Johannes Kepler 93

    William Herschel 88

    Pierre-Simon Laplace 79

    Nicolaus Copernicus 75

    Ptolemy 73

    Tycho Brahe 68

    Edmond Halley 57

    Giovanni Domenico Cassini 53

    Hipparchus 49

    Walter Baade 47

    Edwin Hubble 45

    Friedrich Bessel 39

    William Huggins 38

    George Ellery Hale 37

    Arthur Eddington 37

    Ejnar Hertzsprung 35

    Heinrich Wilhelm Matthias Olbers 33

    Gerard Kuiper 32

    Johannes Hevelius 30

    Biology[edit]

    Figure Index score

    Charles Darwin 100

    Aristotle 94

    Jean-Baptiste Lamarck 88

    Georges Cuvier 83

    Thomas Hunt Morgan 75

    Carl Linnaeus 59

    William Harvey 51

    Theodor Schwann 48

    Stephen Hales 48

    Jan Swammerdam 47

    Marcello Malpighi 45

    Claude Bernard 45

    Hugo de Vries 44

    Karl Ernst von Baer 43

    John Ray 42

    Ernst Haeckel 41

    Lazzaro Spallanzani 38

    Gregor Mendel 38

    Pliny the Elder 37

    Albrecht von Haller 37

    Chemistry[edit]

    Figure Index score

    Antoine Lavoisier 100

    Jöns Jacob Berzelius 67

    Carl Wilhelm Scheele 53

    Joseph Priestley 49

    Humphry Davy 46

    Robert Boyle 42

    John Dalton 38

    Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac 37

    Joseph Black 33

    William Ramsay 31

    Justus Liebig 31

    William Crookes 30

    Claude Louis Berthollet 29

    Linus Pauling 27

    August Kekulé 27

    Dmitry Mendeleyev 25

    Jan Baptist van Helmont 25

    Frederick Soddy 25

    Martin Heinrich Klaproth 23

    Robert Bunsen 22

    Earth Sciences[edit]

    Figure Index score

    Charles Lyell 100

    James Hutton 77

    William Smith 55

    Georgius Agricola 51

    Abraham Gottlob Werner 46

    Roderick Murchison 40

    Matthew Fontaine Maury 40

    Louis Agassiz 37

    Jean-Étienne Guettard 37

    Carl Gustaf Mosander 37

    Horace-Bénédict de Saussure 35

    Nicolas Desmarest 33

    Alfred Wegener 33

    Alexandre Brongniart 31

    Adam Sedgwick 31

    Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin 29

    Vilhelm Bjerknes 29

    Eilhard Mitscherlich 29

    Per Teodor Cleve 29

    Maurice Ewing 26

    Physics[edit]

    Figure Index score

    Isaac Newton 100

    Albert Einstein 100

    Ernest Rutherford 88

    Michael Faraday 86

    Galileo Galilei 83

    Henry Cavendish 57

    Niels Bohr 52

    J. J. Thomson 50

    James Clerk Maxwell 50

    Pierre Curie 47

    Gustav Kirchhoff 43

    Enrico Fermi 42

    Werner Heisenberg 41

    Marie Curie 41

    Paul Dirac 40

    James Prescott Joule 40

    Christiaan Huygens 39

    William Gilbert 37

    Thomas Young 37

    Robert Hooke 36

    Mathematics[edit]

    Figure Index score

    Leonhard Euler 100

    Isaac Newton 89

    Euclid 83

    Carl Friedrich Gauss 81

    Pierre de Fermat 72

    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 72

    René Descartes 54

    Georg Cantor 50

    Blaise Pascal 47

    Bernhard Riemann 47

    David Hilbert 40

    Jakob Bernoulli 40

    Diophantus 39

    Gerolamo Cardano 37

    François Viète 36

    Adrien-Marie Legendre 36

    John Wallis 36

    Augustin-Louis Cauchy 35

    Fibonacci 34

    Archimedes 33

    Medicine[edit]

    Figure Index score

    Louis Pasteur 100

    Hippocrates 93

    Robert Koch 90

    Galen 74

    Paracelsus 68

    Paul Ehrlich 59

    René Laennec 54

    Elmer McCollum 49

    Alexander Fleming 47

    Ambroise Paré 46

    Emil Adolf von Behring 44

    Joseph Lister 43

    Kitasato Shibasaburō 42

    Thomas Sydenham 40

    Andreas Vesalius 38

    Gerhard Domagk 36

    Alexis Carrel 36

    Sigmund Freud 34

    John Hunter 34

    Ignaz Semmelweis 34

    Technology[edit]

    Figure Index score

    James Watt 100

    Thomas Edison 100

    Leonardo da Vinci 60

    Christiaan Huygens 51

    Archimedes 51

    Guglielmo Marconi 50

    Vitruvius 43

    John Smeaton 37

    Henry Bessemer 34

    Thomas Newcomen 33

    Charles Babbage 33

    Carl Wilhelm Siemens 32

    John Wilkinson 32

    Benjamin Franklin 32

    Charles Wheatstone 32

    Alfred Nobel 32

    Michael Faraday 31

    Denis Papin 31

    George Stephenson 30

    Samuel Morse 30

    Western Philosophy[edit]

    Figure Index score

    Aristotle 100

    Plato 87

    Immanuel Kant 74

    René Descartes 51

    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 46

    Thomas Aquinas 39

    John Locke 37

    David Hume 36

    Augustine 30

    Baruch Spinoza 27

    Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 27

    Socrates 26

    Arthur Schopenhauer 24

    George Berkeley 21

    Friedrich Nietzsche 20

    Thomas Hobbes 19

    Bertrand Russell 18

    Jean-Jacques Rousseau 17

    Plotinus 17

    Johann Gottlieb Fichte 17

    Western Music[edit]

    Figure Index score

    Ludwig van Beethoven 100

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 100

    Johann Sebastian Bach 87

    Richard Wagner 80

    Joseph Haydn 56

    Georg Friedrich Händel 46

    Igor Stravinsky 45

    Claude Debussy 45

    Franz Liszt 45

    Franz Schubert 44

    Robert Schumann 42

    Hector Berlioz 41

    Arnold Schoenberg 39

    Johannes Brahms 35

    Frédéric Chopin 32

    Claudio Monteverdi 31

    Giuseppe Verdi 30

    Felix Mendelssohn 30

    Carl Maria von Weber 27

    Christoph Willibald Gluck 26