The content for this course is derived from the following:
Hillsdale College course on Western Heritage, online and print materials
Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live, and other writings by Dr. Schaeffer
The War on the West, by Douglas Murray, 2002
- Excerpts from various primary sources from Western history and philosophy
Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, Adam Smith, etc.
- Personal interviews
- Excerpts from various secondary sources on the topics covered
In the academic world today, the philosophical foundations of Western Civilization are actively
being undermined by radical ideology and progressive identity politics. At the same time,
immigrants are pouring into the Western world in unprecedented numbers. It is worth asking
why these things are happening. Why is the Western world, its history and its heroes, being
actively disparaged? Why at the same time are the world's immigrants moving almost exclusively
to nations in the West? Much has been said and written about historic sins committed within
Western nations. What is it, then, about the West that makes it almost exclusively the desired
destination for people from across the globe?
Many people look at Europe and America and there they see prosperity and hope. They see the
possibility of education and health care for their families. They see a chance to start their
own business, hope for a better standard of living. They see government based on constitutional
law and human rights. They see economic freedom and freedom to worship. The Western nations
draw people from across the world precisely because they have provided freedoms and institutions
that people and communities desire and need. What is it about the West that has made it successful,
prosperous and free?
This course will cover the foundational ideas that undergird Western Civilization. The radical
critique currently being applied to specific aspects of the Western world and its heritage serves
as an excellent starting point for covering the importance of these very ideas: The Rule of Law;
human rights and civil rights; limited government; private property; economic and political freedom;
a Christian view of man, morality and virtue; the traditional family. We will study how these ideas
have developed and shaped the culture, governments and institutions of many of the Western nations,
and of America in particular.
The War on the West
A student who attends college today is likely to find professors and administrators promoting a
decidedly negative view of Western civilization. Never has Western culture, its history, and its
heroes been as despised and disparaged, from within, as it is today. This is particularly the case
in the humanities and social sciences, although radical ideologues are now found in virtually all
fields of study. Recent decades have seen progressive, socialist, and anti-Western ideas spread
from academia through the media, K-12 education, the corporate world, and the general culture.
This course will examine what these ideas are, how they have spread, the fruit that they bear,
and, importantly, how to recognize them and how to answer the arguments they pose.
We will also study the history of these ideas. Radical gender ideology, Critical Race Theory,
and other variants of Critical Theory on campuses and in the culture today can be traced back to
the New Left of the 1960's and thinkers such as Herbert Marcuse, and back further to the intellectuals
of the Frankfurt School and to Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci in the early 1900's. These men drew
on the earlier writings of Karl Marx. Marx himself had studied Kant and Hegel, who trace their own
ideas back to Jean Jacques Rousseau, whose writings helped motivate the historic catastrophe of the
French Revolution. Whittaker Chambers described the radical ideology in his book Witness: "It is not
new. It is, in fact, man's second oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of
Creation under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: 'Ye shall be as gods." We will see how
these ideas have influenced the course of history, and how they have carried a revolutionary impetus,
with disastrous results seen in the crimes of Stalin in Russia and the Cultural Revolution in China,
and the ways in which these ideas are now at work, sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle, in
academia and in the culture in the West.
Derek Owens graduated from Duke University in 1988 with a degree in mechanical engineering and
physics. He taught physics, honors physics, AP Physics, and AP computer science at The Westminster Schools
in Atlanta, GA from 1988-2000. He worked at the TIP program at Duke for two years, teaching physics and
heading the Satellite Science Program. He received a National Science Foundation scholarship and
studied history and philosophy of science at L'Abri Fellowship in England. He worked as a software
developer for six years before returning to teaching. Since 2006, he has been a full time teacher for
homeschoolers in the Atlanta area. He and his wife Amor and their two children Claire and David
attend Dunwoody Community Church, a non-denominational church near their home in Norcross, GA.