More academia than just the West

April 5, 2016, 11:59 p.m.


We, El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán de Stanford (MEChA), do not support the ballot initiative by The Stanford Review for a Western civilization requirement.

We, as MEChA, have always existed with the understanding that the current societal and educational systems were not made for us. It is through the efforts of many past Chicanxs and other minority groups that we have been able to carve out a space for our own education and survival within these systems. Our work has brought about changes such as the program in comparative studies in race and ethnicity and Chicana/o-Latina/o studies, to name a few. These programs aim to represent a diversity of perspectives, not just those included within the Western canon. To accept The Review’s Western civilization proposal would be to ignore and invalidate the work of our predecessors, in turn doing a disservice to ourselves and future generations of Latinx students.

To say that the Western Civilization proposal is the only means of reinvigorating the humanities at Stanford is short-sighted, at best. While the humanities at Stanford certainly needs attention, it is not because of the absence of the Western canon in our curriculum. Indeed, this canon is implicit throughout our curriculum. From philosophy and classics, to history and politics, engaging with the humanities at Stanford subjects students to the Western canon. Implementing an explicit Western civilization curriculum would stifle Stanford students’ efforts to pursue the expanse of humanities that lie outside of this oeuvre. The Western canon is only one lens through which to study the humanities, and a liberal arts education – on which Stanford prides itself –should not impose this lens at the expense of others.

Moreover, through their proposal of the Western civilization requirement, The Review posits that, due to our Western context, the Western canon is the only means to a legitimate argument. To ignore the breadth of thought and experience that contribute to our society is to reinforce the idea that the prevalence of the Western canon is due to Western exceptionalism. Rather, the erasure and disregard of non-Western canons is a result of Western conquest.

Most importantly, the Western civilization requirement is proposed with the rationale that with it, students will gain the tools necessary to excel as leaders outside of Stanford, and that the Western canon is the only means to this success. The accomplishments and victories experienced by people of color in decolonizing their minds proves otherwise. While The Review argues that the Western canon can be used by people of color to bring about their own individual freedom, we as MEChA recognize that liberation afforded by the oppressor is not liberation at all. In the words of civil rights activist Audre Lorde, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Individual liberation assumes survival within an oppressive system. MEChA, as an organization, believes in collective liberation and in the dismantling of these systems.

Our work thus far, tied with the tireless help of other community groups across campus, has shown that together, we can begin changing these systems. The 1989 takeover made our president hear our call for faculty diversity, the 1994 hunger strike brought us Chicano Studies and ultimately CSRE, and today, we continue to fight for the dignity of the Chicanx/Latinx community, as well as of other oppressed peoples.  To accept this proposal would be an erasure of our moral values, our historical politics and the foundational voices of our communities. For these reasons, we urge the student body to consider alternatives to reinvigorating the humanities at Stanford outside of the Western civilization proposal.

– MEChA de Stanford


Contact MEChA at [email protected]

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