journal of world history, fall 2000 From Plato to NATO: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents. By david gress. New York: Free Press, 1998. Pp. xiv + 610. $28.00 (cloth). One of the most impressive contributions to the recent debates on multiculturalism and the core curriculum in higher education is David Gress's From Plato to NATO. The book's humorous title is a reference to the playful moniker coined by students for those sweeping survey courses in "Western civilization" and the "Great Books" that are standard fare at Ivy League caliber institutions. For those not privileged enough to attend Princeton or Columbia, the self-taught culture vulture might peruse the bookshelf of any middle-class home and find more than sufficient sustenance in the massive and elegantly written volumes making up Will and Ariel Durant's bestseller, The Story of Civilization. Gress's book is an attempt to explain how these panoramic surveys of Western history became such an integral component of American academic culture. So pervasive was their influence that Gress dubs these optimistic stories of moral and technological progress as "The Grand Narrative." As this expression implies, the Western civilization course, as it is customarily taught, is governed by
Journal of World History – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Oct 1, 2000
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