VIEWSrnWhen West Meets Eastrnby Jonathan Chavesrnjfu L trnTgJ’^jij’flrnJ F •^ i~ i-j»-*’^!wiMlfe»««M«…__rn;4? frnj f l ^ ‘ ‘ r’ « ‘Vrn| | W ^ . ‘ • – ‘ • • u ^ J * ‘ * *rn^?S«*4>JrnajtfW^?*^w*- . j-t^rtrf*rn•^^Hpftji*^*^^ *rntfttiiiSs*-rni^.’^p-.rn^rn4tt>-rntrnWhen Virginia Governor George Allen recently attemptedrnto return the curriculum of his state’s public schoolrnsystem to a solid grounding in Western and American history,rnhis plan, greeted with howls of indignation from the NationalrnEducational Association and their minions in the state legislature,rnwas soundly defeated. “It would set us back to the 1950’s!rnIt would ignore all we have discovered about how children learnrnin the last few decades! It would bring us back to Eurocentrism!”rnAnd so a popular governor recent!v elected with a solidrnnrandate proved poweriess to overcome the entrenched forcesrnof “educators” and “liberal” legislators to restore the Europeanrnand American tradition to center stage in Virginia’s schools.rn1 hose in professional educational circles who argue for doingrnawav with “Eurocentrism” often point to the undeniablerndemographic increase in certain classrooms, including those inrnnorthern Virginia, of children from widelv different ethnicrnbackgrounds. On the level of higher education as well, manv ofrnour universities have experienced a dramatic rise in the percentagernof foreign (the p.c. term is “international”) students.rnI low ever, it is not the students’ background that determinesrncurriculum but the categories of knowledge and the culturalrnexpectations of the nation in which they are studying. As forrnJonathan Chaves is chairman of the Department of EastrnAsian Languages and Literature at The George WashingtonrnUniversity.rnthe college and graduate students who flock to the UnitedrnStates from all over the world, they overwhelmingly opt tornstudy xarious sciences, math, and engineering. If they wishedrnto study Hinduism or Islamic civilization or Confucianism,rnthey could obviously do so far more readily in their homerncountries. (One exception would be Chinese students fromrnmainland China, where the presentation of classical Chineserncivilization remains distorted by Marxist ideology.) Americanrnschools must teach, along with the basics, what it means to bernan American citizen.rnA more intellectually serious argument against GovernorrnAllen’s plan was the familiar cry of “multiculturalism.” Underlyingrnthe call for a “multicultural” (as opposed to “Eurocentric”)rnemphasis in education are two dubious claims, whichrnironically contradict each other; one, that because we in thernWest have ignored the great achievements of Asia (and otherrnparts of the wodd as well, but here I am concerned only withrnthe question of Asia), we need to redress this wrong by removmgrnour blinders and fully integrating the history and civilizationrnof Asia into our curricula at all levels; and, two, that wheneverrnwe did pay attention to Asia in the past, the West eitherrndenigrated or romanticized it. Both “strategies” of the latterrnwere calculated to sanction or perhaps sugarcoat Westernrndomination and even colonization of Asia, the “white man’srnburden” of Kipling. This is Edward Said’s concept of “Orientalism,”rndramatically argued in his 1978 book of that name.rnSEPTEMBER 1995/13rnrnrn