Why the Western canon still resonates

Why the Western canon still resonates, by Elizabeth Fanning, a third-year undergraduate at Campion College, Australia’s first tertiary liberal arts college, based in western Sydney.

As a 20-year-old Australian studying a “great books” degree, I sometimes feel like a member of a rare species.

When I tell people I’m in my second year of a bachelor of liberal arts at Campion College Australia, the response I usually get is: “Why would you study that?”

This common scenario demonstrates something deeper, a trend highlighted in the debate surrounding the Ramsay Centre’s proposal for a “great books” course of its own; that is, a growing disregard for the history and cultural heritage of the West.

If I were to say I was studying a bachelor of media and communications, nobody would bat an eyelid, so why has an interest in the origins of our own Western culture become so reprehensible? …

Through a “great books” approach, I can develop an understanding of this part of our history, forming a basis from which I can better understand and appreciate other cultures and histories.

So many of the values we Australians prize so highly come from our Western roots, an obvious example being democracy.

I’ve gained a far greater understanding of our own parliamentary system by studying Thucydides’s account of Pericles and his development of government in ancient Greece. While studying this, I learn about the historical context as well as the philosophies that were in play at the time. In this way, the broader picture becomes clear.

hat-tip Stephen Neil