A light glimmered in the subfusc halls of academia this past September. Under the title “E Pluribus Unum,” Donald Kagan, the eminent classical historian, former director of athletics at Yale, and now Dean of Yale College, addressed the incoming class of 1994, urging them to place Western civilization and culture at the center of their undergraduate studies.

One might have thought this an unexceptionable exhortation: What else should students concentrate on at our great liberal-arts institutions? Alas, as has become all too evident over the past few years, the idea that the monuments of Western culture deserve a special place in college curricula has become anathema. This attack on the priority of Western culture has been brewing for some time, fueled in part by accumulated ethnic resentments, in part by the puerile assumption that all cultures are equally valuable. The issue burst into public contro ...