A Strong Argument in Favor of Studying the Classics | National Review

A Strong Argument in Favor of Studying the Classics | National Review

We hear over and over from “woke” professors that contemporary Americans have nothing to learn from books written by dead white males. Such books merely perpetuate white hegemony, or so we are told.

One scholar who disagrees with that is Roosevelt Montas. His book Rescuing Socrates argues that reading the classics was of inestimable value to him, and in today’s Martin Center article, Professor Matthew Stewart of Boston University reviews it.

Stewart writes, “Most importantly, a teenaged Montás rescued a volume of Plato from a sidewalk garbage heap — a Harvard Classic whose beauty as a physical object is also noted — and read it with the openness and curiosity that consistently shine through in the author. ‘There I stood before a trove of precious books. . . . In ways I could not have understood, before me was the treasure I had come to America to find.’”

How much did that find matter to Montas? Eventually he would become a professor at Columbia University, serving for ten years as director of its esteemed Center for the Core Curriculum.

But people such as Montas aren’t supposed to read and enjoy great books, say the leftists, intent as they are on tearing down Western civilization. To that, Stewart has a reply: “Those who wish to impose a color bar or an identity politics litmus test on such authors are answered respectfully but firmly by Montás. He writes that even as a student, he ‘quickly came to resent expectations about who I was supposed to be, what I was supposed to like, what political views I was supposed to hold, what student groups I was supposed to join, what classes and topics I was supposed to be interested in, what identity I was supposed to need affirmed.’”

I suppose the woke will dismiss Montas as not “authentically” a person of color.

Stewart concludes, “Here is the very model of intellectual dialogue: Freud speaking to Montás and Montás considering thoughtfully and speaking back — a demonstration of the fact that the value of liberal arts education is to be found in the experience itself rather than in bean-counter terms such as ‘learning outcomes’ or starting salaries.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.