by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It was only a matter of time before Cicero got canceled.
The New York Times the other day profiled Princeton classicist Dan-el Padilla Peralta, who wants to destroy the study of classics as a blow for racial justice.
The critique of classics as stultifying and privileged isn’t new, but in the woke era this attack is more potent than ever and has a better chance of demolishing a foundation of Western education.
At a time when Abraham Lincoln doesn’t pass muster in the progressive precincts of America, poor benighted Homer, whose chief subject was toxic masculinity, probably doesn’t stand a chance.
In its report, the Times writes that the critics believe that the study of classics “has been instrumental to the invention of ‘whiteness’ and its continued domination.” Or as Padilla himself puts it, “Systemic racism is foundational to those institutions that incubate classics and classics as a field itself.”
It is rare to find other instances of scholars so consumed with hatred for their own disciplines that they literally want to destroy them from within. Presumably if an ultra-progressive astrophysicist concludes that his field is desperately out of touch with social-justice concerns, he simply goes and does something else for a living rather than agitating to have students stop learning about space.
One would think Padilla’s own amazing personal journey would, in itself, make the case for the wonders of the classics. He came here as a child from the Dominican Republic, lived in a homeless shelter in New York City, discovered a book on Ancient Greece and Rome — and with help from a mentor, got into a prep school and went on to get degrees from Princeton, Oxford, and Stanford.
For him, evidently, the classics weren’t very exclusionary, and indeed there’s no reason that they should be.