Monday, May 28, 2007

Dartmouth Kerfuffle

Interesting goings-on at Dartmouth.

I was there for just a year, as a visitor. An account of one incident while I was there....

My good friend Todd Zywicki is now a trustee, bless his heart. Todd, good luck. You are fighting the good fight. (Another bit, from ACTA)

KC Johnson gives some background.

And, in a promising and on-going series, John Bruce gives some recollections and discussion. Very interesting. And...waa hoo wah, yall.


Dirty Davey said...

The insurgents are calling for both "an increased emphasis on athletics" and "returning the college to a platform of research and teaching excellence"?

In an undergraduate institution, those do not strike me as congruent goals.

Mungowitz said...

My own experience with Dartmouth was that some (not all, but many) faculty had little interest in teaching at all. Anything having to do with the past, or with literature/philosophy /drama for its own sake, not worth covering.

What WAS worth covering was the prof's own parochial political views. So, in a class on Shakespeare, one might be treated to the prof's view on (in my era) Iran-Contra, and how Republicans are not just evil, but also moronic.

Even if this were true (the evil/moron bit), it has no place in a class on Elizabethan lit, and certainly not to the treatment of the subject at all.

Now, I would protect the prof's right to speak about the issues of the day. And this was nearly 12 years ago, I was there for one year, and I do not have specific examples to cite. I certainly have no evidence of any real pattern.

Still, all DD's comment calls for is an existence proof. Suppose, at a university we could call Doob, a professor spent four consecutive periods in a literature class talking down the Doob lacrosse team.

One could easily (1) improve the atmosphere for athletics, and (2) improve the atmosphere for learning, by asking the professor to shut and teach his/her subject.

So, my claim is that Dartmouth does in fact have a significant proportion of professors, in the various branches of indignation studies that have proliferated at modern universities, who both decry athletics and who impose their personal political views on students. Finding a way to change the atmosphere could easily improve athletics and refocus on excellence in teaching.

Whether my claim is correct is of course quite a different matter. Dirty D makes his argument as a problem of logic.

What do other commenters think of my empirical claim? Is there any reason at all to believe it is true, or is this just another example of Horowitzian (David, not Donald) exaggeration?

Anonymous said...

"Suppose, at a university we could call Doob, a professor spent four consecutive periods in a literature class talking down the Doob lacrosse team."

Or in a political science class. You know, it has happened, you don't really have to assume it.

Duke soph.

Dirty Davey said...

Your existence proof uses a hill-climbing algorithm, but you chose a starting point from which it gets stuck in a local maximum rather than a global one.

As long as you have a student body which responds to intellectual challenge with slogans like "blolet Doob be Doob", or "if we had wanted to go to Harford we'd have gone to Harford instead of Doob", you're gonna have trouble setting your sights too high on the (undergraduate) research and teaching excellence front.