The Dartmouth Observer

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Wednesday, January 22, 2003
I should perhaps have made the circumstances of the situation clearer. The friend of mine who received the paper (he does not know the author) did so as part of his seminar requirements: the students in the seminar receive each other's papers and critique them in front of the class, thereby exposing the class (and the professor) to the paper as well. Last night, my friend was critiquing the paper in a room with several other people in it, and he was making his thoughts known to those people. The first paragraph was read out to them. I happened to be there, and decided it would make good fodder for thought, so I asked my friend whether I could post it on the Observer. As Tim can see, it was never a private, one-to-one matter at all.

I cannot believe Tim thinks the ridicule is unjustified. It has nothing to do with recent academic fads - even though the author is clearly heavily influenced by postmodernism (and maybe drugs as well) - and everything to do with good writing, which this piece is not. My friend, who happens to be a very, very intelligent and liberal Government major, thought it was crap (and he has to critique it in front of class today). Coming from a graduating senior taking the culminating experience for his major, this is pretty damn ridiculous. No thesis statement. No details ('cos reality is murky, one presumes). No citation of authorities to support the view that "Nothing is necessarily causative of anything else." And I read the final paragraph, which quotes from Gene Wilder playing Willy Wonka in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. I kid you not.

Tim assumes too much when he says that I am using this example to show that "traditional levels of scholarship have declined at Dartmouth with recent academic fads." I merely wished to post something that a lot of people found very, very funny. The title of my piece, "Stupid people are everywhere," is not really as great an exaggeration as one might think, in light of some of the anti-war demonstrations over this weekend.