News & Events

9 June 2018

Human epic is about more than university power struggles

John Carroll: The Australian June 9, 2018
The Australian National Univer­sity has just backed off hosting a course on Western civilisation on the grounds of it being somehow in conflict with what the university stands for. What does it stand for, we might ask.

One further step in the demoral­isation of the academy has just taken place, care of ANU senior management caving in to a minority of noisy radical students, one which, while small in itself, can count on background support from most of the academic staff in the humanities. There is a long history behind how we, as a society, have let this come to pass. At issue is what has transpired in the ­humanities and social sciences, not in the rest of the university.

The Western university as we know it today was founded in the Middle Ages as a Christian ­institution. It was predicated on ­unquestioned and unifying faith. Within the faith, its central task was theological, to explain the works of God to man and to train minds for that interpretative work. The university was transformed by the Renaissance, and later the ­Enlightenment, into a humanist institution. In this, its second phase, culture replaced God as the transcendental force that welded the unifying vision. We are now well into a third phase in which the university has a confused idea of ­itself, and inasmuch as it has ­direction, it is to be found in ­pockets still under the influence of the ghosts of the old beliefs.

To read the full editorial – The Australian

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9 June 2018

Our universities recoil at how the West has won- Editorial

If we believe the “long march through the institutions” has been successful then it follows that any pushback is going to encounter resistance. That, in essence, is what is happening as the Australian National University rejects a study and scholarship proposal from the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation and other university faculties prepare to erect the barricades. The episode is a sad indictment on the politicisation of academic institutions and a clear demonstration of just why self-made healthcare and media billionaire Paul Ramsay came to believe such a project would be so vital. Without doubt it is being opposed because it seeks broadly to be in favour of Western civilisation rather than to be ambivalent or antipathetic. This might not be too much to ask from any Western university or, indeed, any institution vaguely familiar with human history and the prosperity, systems and liberties that have been developed. It should almost go without saying that this does not and cannot mean any consideration of Western civilisation should be uncritical — that would be absurd. But it ought not be too much to expect that any organisation aiming to deal in intelligent inquiry can recognise the trend of progress in arts and literature, politics and democracy, academia and innovation, as well as many other spheres.

Certainly, while supporting the stated aims of the Ramsay centre, The Weekend Australian understands the need for academic freedom. Yet it seems incomprehensible that a suitable arrangement could not have been struck; indeed, our understanding is that the draft agreement ensured the ANU would have a majority on the selection panel and therefore a veto power over academic appointments. This would be similar to arrangements for other donor-sponsored programs and grant the fail-safe provision required. It seems likelier, on the evidence available, that the ANU and its vice-chancellor, Brian Schmidt, cowered in the face of strident and politically motivated opposition from student activists and the academic union. Now we have seen staff at the University of Sydney launch a pre-emptive strike against the centre. Led by activist academics who support odious campaigns such as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, they oppose the centre because it has connections to people who have been active in the Liberal Party (never mind it includes ALP figures on its board, too) and they claim it will push a chauvinistic view about a “European supremacism”. This is jejune, even undergraduate, behaviour and it tends to underscore exactly the sort of capitulation to superficiality and green-left activism that the Ramsay centre aims to guard against in the ongoing contest of ideas.

Some well-meaning observers, in our pages and elsewhere, suggest it is just too difficult to change the ways or overcome the jaundice of universities and that, to achieve its aims, the Ramsay centre ought to establish itself as an independent institution or in cahoots with a private university. This would be a surrender to those who seek to use our publicly funded universities for their own ideological ends. The great universities of Australia should do better than this; they must become truly pluralistic academies mindful of their heritage and responsibilities, and capable of hosting a centre on Western civilisation without recoiling and becoming bastions of resistance.

To read the full editorial – The Australian

 

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8 June 2018

ANU must enlighten us on a strange decision – Editorial

What kind of society undermines itself like this? Our top academic institution the Australian National University has killed off the planned Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation where academics and students would study the founding ideas behind our own civilisation, funded from a bequest by the late healthcare pioneer Paul Ramsay, one of Australia’s greatest entrepreneurs and philanthropists.

ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt says only that the terms cut across the university’s “autonomy”. But that’s wholly inadequate when it’s clear that there was also noisy pressure from the academics union and the ANU student association to dump the plan on grounds it was there to promote “a radical conservative agenda”. Former prime minister Tony Abbott who sits on the Ramsay centre’s board indeed inflamed things by saying that the Centre would be “in favour” of Western civilisation. But, apart from the knee-jerk opposition, in what weird world is that a bad thing? Being broadly in favour of Western Enlightenment values such as individual freedom, representative democracy, private property rights and equality before the law – now regardless of race, gender or sexuality – does not preclude criticising its historical or contemporary lapses.

For the full editorial see the AFR

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31 May 2018

David Malouf – Distinguished Speaker

On Tuesday May 22, David Malouf, one of Australia’s greatest writers, delivered the second lecture in the Ramsay Centre Distinguished Speakers Series 2018. The title of his lecture was “The Voices of Women in Greek Drama”

 

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22 May 2018

David Malouf speaks at Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation

Sydney, Tuesday 22 May 2018: Internationally acclaimed author David Malouf will today deliver an address on the voice of women in ancient Greek drama at the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

Mr. Malouf said, “It is a great honour to be invited to speak at the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. The contribution of the Ancient Greeks to our civilizational heritage is extraordinary and continuing. Western Civilisation is a blend of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the classical tradition.   For close to one thousand years, the classical voice was largely silent in the West but with the Renaissance, it re-emerged and is now the dominant voice – a voice open to experiment, a postulation open to argument.   What fascinates me about the voice of women in Ancient Greek drama is how they are given key statements; how critical they are of men and of the world in which they live,” Mr. Malouf said.

CEO of The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation Professor Simon Haines said, “Mr. Malouf is a very fine writer and has made a lifelong contribution to Australian letters which includes nine novels, five collections of short stories, nine collections of poetry, four libretti, a play, a memoir and a number of essays. His talk today on the voice of women in ancient Greek drama perfectly illustrates the ongoing relevance of Western Civilisation to contemporary Australian writers.”

Chairman of the Board of the Ramsay Centre, the Honourable John Howard OM AC, 25th Prime Minister of Australia said, “It is terrific to have someone of Mr. Malouf’s stature speaking at the Ramsay Centre and underlines the Centre’s commitment to nurturing a greater appreciation of the many ways in which Western Civilisation enriches the lives of Australians.”

Board member and Principal of Queenwood Elizabeth Stone said, “David Malouf has made a wonderful contribution to Australian literature which has enriched the learning of many generations of Australian students who have come to know and love his work through the senior high school curriculum. It is a terrific privilege to have him speak at the Ramsay Centre.”

Board member of the Ramsay Centre and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, “It’s an honour to have David Malouf speak at the Ramsay Centre and emphasizes the way in which we want the Centre to bring together Australians from many different perspectives.”

Mr. Malouf is the second speaker in the Ramsay Centre’s 2018 Distinguished Speaker series following on from the inaugural address by Professor Geoffrey Blainey in April. The Centre for was created with an endowment from the late Paul Ramsay AO, founder of Ramsay Health Care, to promote a deeper appreciation of Western civilisation through the creation of university degrees, scholarships, summer schools and public lectures.

Media Contact: Rebecca Weisser 0438 645 562 rebecca.weisser@ramsaycentre.org

 

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18 May 2018

The Hon Kim Beazley AC resigns as a Director

The Ramsay Centre regrets to announce that the Hon Kim Beazley AC resigned as a Director on 18 May 2018, following his appointment as Governor of Western Australia. 

 CEO, Professor Simon Haines, said:

 “Mr Beazley has made a unique contribution to the Board. We fully understand that the nature of his new appointment requires him to disengage from other roles. We warmly congratulate Kim on his appointment to this high office.”

 The Governor said: “I wish the Centre well and remain fully supportive of its mission. Its work is potentially a major contribution to our understanding of the philosophical and cultural basis of our democracy. I very much regret the necessity of my withdrawing from the Board.”

 The resignation of Mr Beazley will create a casual vacancy on the Board of Directors and this matter will be further considered by the Board.  

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24 April 2018

Prof Geoffrey Blainey – Distinguished Speaker

On Wednesday 4 April 2018, the renowned Australian historian, Professor Geoffrey Blainey, delivered the inaugural lecture in the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation’s Distinguished Speakers Series. The title of Professor Blainey’s lecture was: ‘The Glass Ballot Box: Australia, the World Powers and the Advantages of Democracy’.https://www.youtube.com/watch?

Video:         Glass Ballot Box, Australia, the World Powers, and Democracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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24 April 2018

Liberals are undermining western civlisation

Progressive critics should not abuse the freedoms that our chequered history has given us.

An Australian philanthropist has caused a row by leaving a vast sum of money to promote the teaching of “western civilisation” in universities. Universities love benefactions, and two jumped at the offer. But many academics loathe the proposal: to them it smacks of racism, imperialism and claims to ethnic or cultural superiority. Students agitate to “decolonise the curriculum” and there are now tours of British museums and art galleries designed to trace “the history of empire and genocide”; participants wear badges with the slogan “Display it like you stole it”.

In my own university, Cambridge, once-popular courses called “The Expansion of Europe” and “The West and the Third World” have long been replaced by a decentred “World History”. Simon Schama and Mary Beard now celebrate not “Civilisation” in their BBC TV series but “Civilisations”. Some of this is modish destruction of straw men. Some has serious intellectual purpose. Often it is a valuable enrichment and a salutary recognition of the achievements of others.

Nevertheless, there is an important thing called western civilisation, defined by history, not geography. It is the sum total of our laws, our values, our arts, our institutions, of the habits of mind and heart that enable us to live, fairly harmoniously, together: to trust each other (to some extent); to look out for each other (sometimes grudgingly); to understand each other (sometimes imperfectly); even to tell jokes about each other.

These are great and rare achievements. If I were Chinese, or Indian, or Japanese, I would argue the same — that the best aspects of my civilisation need to be cherished and taught. This in no way involves disparaging others or cutting oneself off from the wider world. A society cannot just pull up its civilisational roots and choose some other value system; remember the disastrous attempt to create “Soviet Man”. But you can weaken your civilisation by neglecting it and despising it, and we have arguably gone too far along that road already.

This is not to say that we should be uncritical of our inherited values, blind to past misdeeds, or resistant to all change. Indeed, western civilisation has always been quarrelsome, diverse and flexible. Some major civilisations trace themselves back to a single immutable source: Confucius, or Muhammad, or the Buddha. But the West has no single ideology, no single scripture, no single prophet. It is indebted to ancient Greece for the foundations of its philosophy, partly transmitted by Arabic scholars; to ancient Rome and medieval England for its two great legal systems; to the 17th-century scientific revolution and the 18th-century Enlightenment for much of its modernity — themselves stimulated by contacts with the rest of the world. So western civilisation cannot be, by its very nature, wholly stable, wholly orthodox or wholly united. Its diversity, eclecticism and capacity for evolution are defining characteristics.

The great Scottish Enlightenment philosopher and historian David Hume said loftily that we owed our advances to “a great measure of accident with a small ingredient of wisdom and foresight”. The western civilisation we have inherited is the result of a painful, slow, dangerous, accidental and faltering invention of a set of rules for life, the best we have managed over many centuries, and certainly in need of constant maintenance and improvement, but also worth defending and proclaiming.

Is there a core of ideas, practices and institutions that provide a bedrock? Most of us would perhaps optimistically say yes, and even agree broadly on what they are. We would say tolerance; largely an invention of the 18th century. Then rationality and the scientific method; also largely from the 17th and 18th centuries, but with a link back to ancient Greece. We would probably say “the rule of law”, which derives from the ancient world and the Middle Ages. We would surely too say “democracy”, although only a 19th and even 20th-century development, with distant links to the Greek and Roman republics. We would also say “equality”, or at least some notion of equality before the law, or equality of opportunity as an ideal: that too goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries. We would probably also say things like rights, justice, fairness, which we could trace back to the Middle Ages and to documents such as Magna Carta. And deep in the foundations are Judeo-Christian principles: charity, love, peace, justice, forgiveness.

Of course, these are the ideals, which we fail to put fully into practice. But very few of them could we openly reject, and those who have rejected them (we might think of the Bolsheviks and the Nazis) only ever had a short, although catastrophic, influence on history.

So what’s the problem? Simply that our attachment in practice to the principles we think we hold is fraying. If we routinely denigrate “western” values, we weaken solidarity and promote indifference to political principles and institutions. We encourage intransigent assertions of entitlement and magnified claims to victimhood — two sides of the same coin, and two of the most annoying symptoms of demoralisation.

We have dangerously undermined free thought, free speech, equality before the law and the right to a fair trial: “western” values that would not long ago have been considered sacrosanct. If all of a sudden we have a chilly sense of our civilisation under threat, the fault is largely our own.

Professor Robert Tombs is author of The English and their History

Please see at link to the Times to read the full article.

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- Anon