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Reasons to Question the “Great Books”

June 23, 2022

On Sunday, June 5, I posted a brief note that can be viewed by at least 4000 contacts in my database of friends–and anyone else cruising Facebook–that this Pentecost Sunday was also my birthday.

Last week I discovered that 30-plus colleagues from the 1960s had sent Happy Birthday messages in response. All had enlisted in the conservative movement and all had ISI, YAF or Draft Goldwater movement on our CVs and knew or studied in college with many of “the Greats” of that era.

Willmoore Kendall, Warren Nutter, Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Michael Oakeshott, George Stigler, James Buchanan, Eric Voegelin, Gerhart Niemeyer, Wilhelm Roepke, Stanly Parry, Donald Treadgold, Stephen Tonsor, Leo Strauss, Mario Pei, Martin Diamond, Henry Manne, Harry Jaffa and so many others shaped us in ways that today’s college students will never experience.

I must conclude, therefore, that, for good or ill, we must now start over, and create new colleges and universities and compete for students with the academic Left.

Liberty, Regent and Patrick Henry are well established Fundamentalist Protestant religious colleges, but two recent secular ones have appeared—Thales and University of Austin—that are as bright and bushy-tailed as I was 22 years ago when I founded Yorktown University.

My approach back then was to recruit conservative scholars and work with them to convert their courses for delivery via the Internet. Thales and Austin rely on the “Great Books.”

Much to my surprise I discovered an essay by Fredrick Wilhelmsen on the “Great Books” published at “The Imaginative Conservative” that offers reasons to be skeptical of that method.

I’ve expressed my own reasons, but let us take a look at what Fritz Wilhelmsen had to say in “Great Books: Enemies of Wisdom?

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