University to Replace Western Civilization Classes; Critics See End of Important Curriculum at Chicago School

Article excerpt

Byline: Ellen Sorokin, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A majority of Western civilization core classes at the University of Chicago will be replaced this fall with European civilization courses - a move that will remove an introduction to early Christianity and late antiquity from the classroom.

The move has drawn criticism from students, alumni and some history professors, who say the revised courses will begin with the Middle Ages and end with the aftermath of World War II, and will not represent ancient Greece and Rome.

They argue that the Western civilization courses are a 60-year legacy at the university, and have been among the most popular classes at the university since the 1950s.

"Taking the Western civilization classes away, there will be no coherent course left that teaches students about our traditions," said Sara Butler, a second-year student who is circulating a petition to keep the courses. Miss Butler has collected 200 signatures over the past two days.

"These courses really give students a very solid understanding of their world and how it came to exist," she said.

Katy O'Brien Weintraub, a lecturer in the university's Social Science Collegiate Division who will teach one of the remaining courses next year, agrees.

"The study of civilization is the study of the way of life and the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the groups of people shaped by it," Mrs. Weintraub said. "Western civilization is the civilization in which we live. I think there will always be a need for college students to learn about their own tradition."

University of Chicago is the latest college nationwide to change its Western civilization course curriculum. Other universities such as Stanford dropped Western civilization courses soon after students began protesting the classes.

The decision to eliminate the majority of Western civilization courses came from history professors, who cited declining enrollment in the classes. …