words Al Woods
Western civilisation is a descriptor for the social norms, ethics, customs, political systems and technologies associated with the Western world. In this case, the term ‘Western World’ applies to Europe and all other countries whose histories are strongly connected to Western Europe. It draws most of its influences from Roman law, Greek philosophy and prominently, Christian culture.
In recent times, there has been a significant shift in the perception of western culture. Such changes have therefore altered the way it is treated in society and schools, universities in particular. Campion College president, Dr Paul Morrissey, joined Nick Holt on The Modern Conservative podcast to discuss these differences.
In the podcast, the two drew comparisons between the approach taken by Campion and major Australian universities. They emphasised how students at the college are less restricted in their thinking with more encouragement to engage with the West’s great ideas, thinkers and debaters. In contrast, Nick refers to an IPA study conducted in several universities that demonstrates how the humanities are affected now that they are more often observed through the lens of identity politics and critical race theory.
Dr Morrissey expounded on how teaching at Campion is more focused on examining events and philosophies as they are, without any lenses to colour the student’s perception. This lack of filtering encourages more robust debate among them. In addition, they have more freedom to draw their own conclusions without the restrictions on speech and discussion placed on learners elsewhere. He was also very clear about the handling of student complaints based on an objection to expressed opinions.
According to Dr Morrissey, the culture of debate is welcomed by both faculty and students alike. It is fostered by the diversity of ideological backgrounds present within the college. Students are not restricted to only those opinions and thought patterns that reflect Campion’s mission statement. The only thing that is asked of them is to respect the college’s foundations and backgrounds.
As to the concerns expressed about the prevalent ‘politicisation’ of the humanities, Dr Morrissey explained that Campion continues to take a more ‘common sense ’ approach to literature and history. They try to prevent approaching written works, especially with pre-ordained ideologies and specific lenses already in place. He says that it is crucial to consider the source of the work in question before debating it.
A particular cultural norm that has affected the way universities approach the humanities is research. Dr Morrissey stated that research and the need to keep publishing new findings play a key role in the shift toward a more ‘scientific ’ method of teaching those subjects. Moreover, he acknowledged that Campion is able to use a more straightforward methodology because academics use their scholarship as the focal point of their publishing. Consequently, all the work they publish is based on what is learnt, taught and observed in the classroom, giving it a more robust foundation and body.
Finally, the two discuss what is offered at Campion College: the primary program is a BA degree in liberal arts with four areas of focus, history, literature, philosophy and theology. There are also diploma courses and some post-graduate studies offered.