The Role of CIV
RESHAPING THE HUMANITIES
Scholars debate anew the role of Cultures, Ideas and Values
By Diane Manuel
fall it was hailed in the Daily
as Stanfords defining liberal arts experience. In winter quarter, a
student columnist wrote, To be blunt, the teaching sucked.
A number of professors also crossed verbal swords, with charges and
angry denunciations slicing across the usually tranquil Main Quad.
By most counts, it has been a rough year for the program
Ideas and Values, or CIV. The object of a Faculty Senate mandated
review, CIV appears destined for considerable reshaping at the end of
spring quarter and a new, no-nonsense name Introduction to the
Humanities. But even as the rhetoric revs up, it is clear that a
required, year-long program in cultural literacy and humanistic inquiry
whatever form it takes is here to stay.
The CIV saga dates from the post-World War I decades, as America sought
to secure a link across the Atlantic with European history and culture.
History of Western Civilization was mounted by the history department in
1935, and for the next 34 years undergraduates studied the development
of European thought from classical origins to modern times.
In the politically turbulent late 1960s and 70s, however, History of
Western Civilization was abandoned while faculty conducted a searching
Study of Education at Stanford. The result was a new program called
Western Culture. Piloted for two years and introduced in 1980, it was
seen by many as Stanfords response to the back-to-basics movement.
Built on 15 required books and 18 strongly recommended texts, it
included a collection of masterpieces of literature and philosophy. The
core list of titles, which had to be available in English and in
paperback, were widely acknowledged as monuments of Western thought.