Friday the 13th, 2017, was a lucky day for me. I completed a project that I first decided needed to be done in 1960.
I was a sophomore at the University of California, Riverside. I was taking a required course in Western civilization. It was a one-year history course. Back in the 1960’s, hundreds of major universities and four-year colleges required a one-year course in Western civilization. That was a long time ago. These days, almost no universities require such a course.
Before transferring to the UCR campus, I had attended Pomona College for one semester. It was considered one of the best four-year colleges in the United States. There was no required Western civilization course.
I had considered attending Occidental College. Unlike any other campus in the West Coast, or perhaps the nation, Occidental required a two-year course in Western civilization. It spent at least some of the course on literature. It was not strictly a history course.
As I took that Western civilization course, I recognized that the absence of literature in the course was a distinct liability. It would have been helpful to have had a parallel course in the history of Western literature. This way, what was taking place historically in any particular time period would have made more sense. At the same time, understanding the literature of a particular era would have been considerably easier if students had received a detailed consideration of political, religious, economic, and military events of that era. In other words, I recognized that each of the courses would have been improved had they been taken simultaneously, and had they paralleled each other chronologically.
In the late 1960’s, I was a teaching assistant in the Western civilization program at UCR. That experience persuaded me that my assessment as a sophomore had been correct. It would have made teaching history far easier if the students had also been exposed to the literature in each of the chronological periods. There would have been cross-reinforcement of the two programs.
The problem was obvious: the history department, which was in charge of the Western civilization program, had virtually nothing to do with the English department. It would have been possible to get the faculty members of both departments to cooperate in the creation of such a joint course, but it would not have been easy. Interdepartmental cooperation is always a rarity on any campus. Unless the administration of the university is single-minded in mandating such cooperation and then enforcing it, it is not going to happen.
I did not go into academia. I never did teach a history course, despite the fact that I earned a Ph.D. in history. Nevertheless, always in the back of my mind was the concept of an integrated program in the history of Western civilization and the history of Western literature.
Furthermore, I came to the conclusion that a similar program is necessary in any national history. Many colleges and universities require a course in American history. The same one-sided presentation is inevitable. The history professors are not trained in analyzing literature or in explaining literature within the framework of historical events. There would still have to be cooperation between the English department and the history department. I have never heard of a campus that has such a course jointly taught by the English department and the history department in American history or any other national history. The two departments are hermetically sealed off from each other.
RON PAUL CURRICULUM
When I came up with the idea of the Ron Paul Curriculum, I was determined to overcome the traditional restriction on combining the history of literature and the history of Western civilization. I also decided that the curriculum would have a comparable program in American history. The problem was, I had no idea how I would find someone skilled in teaching the history of literature who could cooperate with whoever was teaching the history courses. I had attempted to find somebody like this two decades ago, and I failed.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)