posted on: Thursday October 31, 2019
by Dr. Alexander Moffett
Director: Development of Western Civilization Program
As Director of the Development of Western Civilization program, I was delighted to read Alyssa Cohen’s thoughtful editorial in the Sept. 12 issue of The Cowl on the “Misuses of Western Civilization” panel we hosted last spring. A primary goal of organizing the panel was to generate conversation about issues regarding the DWC program, so it is heartening to hear students talking about them.
I think that Ms. Cohen is essentially correct in her observation that different sections of DWC have different degrees of engagement with issues of diversity, and that, consequently, students’ experience of the class can be quite different. I am not quite so certain that “standardization,” as she puts it, is the answer to that concern. Professors who teach that class possess a great deal of freedom to select their own texts, and it’s precisely that latitude that has allowed professors to bring in texts by authors from underrepresented groups in the first place. Standardization might discourage professors from doing the type of work needed to continually invigorate the curriculum in the future.
Nonetheless, I agree with Ms. Cohen that the disparity in student experience is an important topic. For students who are interested, I’ll be delivering a vision statement for the DWC program on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 4:30 p.m. in the Ruane Great Room that will address some of these issues. Hope to see you there!