Agitation to ban teaching the western canon warns La Trobe’s John Carroll

A “small, very influential and very noisy minority” is agitating to ban the teaching of the western canon, La Trobe U emeritus professor John Carroll, has told the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Quoting Edmund Burke on leaders of the French Revolution, Professor Carroll described opponents of the Ramsay Centre plan to fund degree programmes in an Australian university, as “the loud and troublesome insects of the hour,” whose opinions are magnified by sympathetic arts, media and education institutions.

His speech was published as University of Sydney vice chancellor Michael Spence launched campus consultations on opening negotiations with the Ramsay Centre to fund courses.

Professor Carroll’s address covered similar issues to those he addressed in June, when ANU ended negotiations with Ramsay.

In this new address he argues that “the western canon is apolitical … politics in any political sense has nothing to do with it” and that “it is completely unjustified of lecturers to intrude their own political views in the classroom.”

And he makes the core case presented by supporters of the Ramsay proposal “the university is not possible without a deep belief in the universal value of truth, goodness and beauty and that they have some transcendent value – the great works of the western canon explore that. The great works help us in that central life task.”


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