The Alexander Hamilton Center stirs hopes – and fears

On October 13, the institution where I teach, Hamilton College, announced that an alumnus had committed $3.6 million to support the creation of the Alexander Hamilton Center for the Study of Western Civilization. The charter of the new Center clearly sets forth its reason for existence: “The reasoned study of Western civilization, its distinctive achievements as well as its distinctive failures, will further the search for truth and provide the ethical basis necessary for civilized life.” In the past, most colleges required a core curriculum that provided students with a proper grounding in Western civilization. But over the last forty years or so, a cafeteria-style model of education, touted at Brown University and other prestigious universities, in which students now enjoy the freedom to pursue their own tastes by choosing from an ever expanding menu of exotic entrées has replaced a required, coherent set of courses that privileges Western civilization.