Where Did Western Civilization Go?

PRINCETON, NJ (May 18, 2011)—The National Association of Scholars has released a detailed study on the near extinction of Western Civilization survey courses in college curricula.

The study finds that two-semester Western Civilization surveys, once a staple in American higher education, have all but disappeared at our leading universities and colleges – even for history majors. This means most U.S. college students can graduate without acquiring an overview of their own civilization’s history.

The report, The Vanishing West: 1964-2010, covers 125 institutions in all 50 states and looks at requirements in 1964, 1989, and 2010. The data confirm the growing indifference, and often scorn, in American academia for the Western experience as an integral subject of study. World History courses, and courses taught through the politically correct lenses of multiculturalism, are on the rise as alternatives.

The NAS study also maps the disappearance of the American history requirement, which is rare both in general education and even for history majors.

Peter Wood, president of the NAS, said, “One of the chief purposes of higher education is to transmit civilization’s legacy to the next generation. Right now American colleges and universities are generally failing to do that.”

Wood added, “When our rising generations don’t know their own history, they are both less likely to defend their civilization and more likely to repeat its mistakes.”

Wood said the NAS would like to help remedy the deficiency. “Our study offers twenty-three recommendations to help colleges identify the problem, fix the curriculum, and repair the pipeline with professors of history competent to teach Western Civilization,” he said.

The National Association of Scholars seeks to improve higher education. It works to expand intellectual standards, academic freedom, and institutional transparency in American colleges and universities. To learn more about NAS, visit www.nas.org.


Peter Wood, President, NAS: 609-683-7878

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