181 CHRONICLESnways in which a course in Western culture on the model ofnthe existing courses at Stanford contributes to enriching theninternal landscape of the student’s mind, regardless of thenindividual’s specialized vocational choice. Essential to suchna course is a common core of readings, modifiable fromntime to time, without which a coherent, unified program ofnstudies in Western culture, allowing for diversified approaches,ncannot be achieved.nBefore examining more closely the proposed reform ofnthe course on Western culture, some observations are innorder. The fact that the overwhelming number of studentsnwho have completed the course profess to be highly satisfiednwith its content and manner of instruction, althoughnrelevant, is not a decisive consideration. Students should benconsulted on any matter that affects them, but the faculty,nwhich confers their degrees, bears the ultimate responsibilitynfor deciding what to teach them, how, and when. A facultyncannot surrender its authority to pressure groups inside ornoutside the university without stultification.nSecondly, I have already referred to the myth that thentradition of Western culture is something unitary or monolithicnrather than a complex of conflicting traditions includingnthose of dissent. I would go further. There is nondefinitive meaning or moral in any required text that isnnecessarily imposed on students by its study. A competentnteacher can, with any required text, play the role of devil’s ornangelic advocate. In my teaching days, confronted by a classnof skeptics, I would make them see the force of the logic ofnbeliefs in transcendence in its strongest and most sophisticatednform. Faced with those frozen in dogmatic religiousnbelief, I would make them aware of the formidable power ofnHumean skepticism. The greatness of Plato’s Republic as anperennial philosophical text is that it lends itself to thenexciting counterposition of arguments and sentiments onnboth sides of themes that have contemporary vibrancy, suchnas feminism, censorship, the defects of democracy, thensnares of totalitarianism, and many others. And this withoutnreliance on the feeble dialectic of Socrates’ interrogation;nthe teacher can further this open approach with occasionalnreference to supplementary reading.nThirdly, some of the criticisms of the course are clearlynbizarre and others manifestly unwarranted. One of thesencriticisms asserts that the content and standards of Westernnculture were restricted to “elite members of Westernnsociety.” But under the social conditions of the past, whonelse but the elite could be the creators of culture? Does thisncriticism imply that the elite contributions are beyond thencapacity of Stanford students? What has happened to thenpursuit of excellence? Not so long ago Dean Wessellsndeclared that Stanford “continues to assemble on the facultyna group of persons who are among this country’s — andnindeed the world’s—leading scholar/teachers.” He goes onnto say “the university’s undergraduate body is elite bynanyone’s standards.” With a teaching body and studentnbody of this character, what objection can there be to anstudy of the elite culture of the elite? What else has comendown to us?nWe are also told “that the elite ideas are not the totality ofnmeaningful ideas in a society.” Of course if they were, theynwouldn’t be elite. Yet this tautology is offered as a critique ofnWestern culture. There is a wide variety of other courses innnnsociology, anthropology, economic history, politics, etc. innwhich other aspects of society can be studied. In mynJefferson Lecture, sponsored by the National Endowmentnfor the Humanities, “The Humanities and the Defense ofnFreedom,” I have argued that Western democracy owesnmore to the trade unions and the dissident churches than tonthe elite humanist tradition. But the justification for thenstudy of the great works of Western culture is not political.nThe oft-repeated charge that the Western culture programn”propounds white male values and slights the contributionsnof women and minority groups to the development of thenWestern tradition” is simply unwarranted.nFinally, the epistemology of the criticism of Westernnculture is primitive and mistaken especially in the demandnthat faculty be recruited from “women and people of color”nto study ideas and aspects of culture that involve them.nWhere ideas are concerned, the primary consideration isnmastery of subject and not identification with it. One doesnnot have to be German to study Luther or the GermannReformation, or sympathetic to the Nazis to study Hitier.nOne might as well argue that men cannot be gynecologists,nthat only women are best qualified to study family law, ornthat only fat physicians can study obesity or hungry peoplenthe phenomenon of starvation. One of the greatest contributionsnto the exposure and struggle against racism in thenUnited States was made by Gunnar Myrdal — a Swedishnwhite man. Race, color, religion, national origin, and sexualnorientation are neither necessary nor sufficient conditionsnfor the fruitful study of the humanities or any subject. Innscholarship as in sport today — alas! it was not alwaysnso!—the quest should always be for the best qualified.nScholars in the natural and medical sciences may feel thatnthe aberrant notions I have described above can prevail onlynin the soft disciplines of the humanities and social studies.nLet them not delude themselves. If such views are not laidnto rest, wherever they manifest themselves, they will makentheir presence felt in recruiting in the natural and medicalnsciences as well. In some of these fields in the past therenhave been disgraceful and invidious practices of discriminationnon the basis of race, religion, and sex. The abolition ofndiscrimination must not be a preface to any kind of reversendiscrimination. In some areas we are already hearingncriticism of the concept of objectivity and culture-freencriteria of scientific validity and claims about the “efficiencynof non-Western medical systems” which presumably shouldnbe integrated into the curriculum of our medical schools.nMany features of the proposed reform of the currentncourse in Western culture are of dubious educational valuenwhen contrasted with their educational alternatives. Two ofnthem are fatal to any worthwhile course. The first is thenabsence of a core of required texts in all tracks. The secondnis the restriction of the time to be covered to 500 years,nwhich in effect gives the impression that Western culturentoday is the residue of the cultural achievements from then15th century to the present. Would it were so! Westernnculture would be less complex and in some respects better.nBut the legacy of the ancient and medieval world is stillnwith us.nThere is no need to despair that the contrasts, influence,nand interactions of non-Western cultures on Western civilizationnwill be lost or neglected. Knowledgeable and skillfuln