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April 06, 2013

Bowdoin College: Come For The "Diversity"; Stay For The Liberal Cocooning

Bowdoin College in Maine apparently takes the "liberal" in Liberal Arts to the extreme.

It sounds like the setup for a bad joke: What did the Wall Street type say to the college president on the golf course? Well, we don't know exactly—but it has launched a saga with weighty implications for American intellectual and civic life.

Here's what we do know: One day in the summer of 2010, Barry Mills, the president of Bowdoin College, a respected liberal-arts school in Brunswick, Maine, met investor and philanthropist Thomas Klingenstein for a round of golf about an hour north of campus. College presidents spend many of their waking hours talking to potential donors. In this case, the two men spoke about college life—especially "diversity"—and the conversation made such an impression on President Mills that he cited it weeks later in his convocation address to Bowdoin's freshman class. That's where the dispute begins.

So the college president apparently went on to tell the frosh that while Bowdoin leaned to the left they should respect diversity of ideas of evil, racist, reichwingers like "the donor". The problem is that word leaked back to "the donor" that he was being used as a strawman for Bowdoin to pat itself on the back for its supposed tolerance and open-mindedness with respect to opposing views while simultaneously castigating them.

... A few months later, Mr. Klingenstein decided to do something surprising: He commissioned researchers to examine Bowdoin's commitment to intellectual diversity, rigorous academics and civic identity. This week, some 18 months and hundreds of pages of documentation later, the project is complete. Its picture of Bowdoin isn't pretty.

Funded by Mr. Klingenstein, researchers from the National Association of Scholars studied speeches by Bowdoin presidents and deans, formal statements of the college's principles, official faculty reports and notes of faculty meetings, academic course lists and syllabi, books and articles by professors, the archive of the Bowdoin Orient newspaper and more. They analyzed the school's history back to its founding in 1794, focusing on the past 45 years—during which, they argue, Bowdoin's character changed dramatically for the worse.

Published Wednesday, the report demonstrates how Bowdoin has become an intellectual monoculture dedicated above all to identity politics.

Read the whole thing. But you won't be surprised to see some of the details, including the curious freshman curriculum, which is short on anything you'd think of as education and long on ... bullshit.

And this isn't accidental.

The full report on Bowdoin is available here.

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posted by Andy at 10:55 AM

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