The Dartmouth Observer

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Friday, October 24, 2003
Ouch, talk about caricature

"Ten years ago I held a professorship at Dartmouth College, one of the Ivy League colleges on the east coast of America, an extremely privileged place where one student in 17 came from a family of millionaires," Hillenbrand explains. "I gave a course on the art of Umayyad Syria and in my class not one student had ever studied any religion except Christianity, not one student had ever studied a foreign language, not one student had ever studied any history except American history and not one student had studied even American history earlier than 1776. Now those are meant to be the cream of the cream of American society, and I didn’t so much as open their minds as crack their skulls open."

From an article in today's issue of the Lebanese paper, The Daily Star. Now I'm not exactly sure what Dartmouth was like in 1993, but unless it was comprised totally of cavemen, I'm pretty sure that students would have studied other religions, or at least other foreign languages. It seems more likely that instead of telling the truth he's giving a purposefully distorted view in order to lionize himself for a Middle Eastern press and appear as the great figure of transition in bringing "Oriental" knowledge to the other side of the world. Is he trying to say that there were no Jewish students without an inkling about their religion, no international students with knowledge of foreign languages, no one from the southwest who might have studied Spanish? Or what about how he points a finger at the millionaire Dartmouth students? Had none of those privileged, presumably prep school students come across a little Latin or French in their days at Groton or Exeter? I have a hard time believing any of the facts in this article, and I'm not sure who to blame -- the person conducting the interview (Samia Nassar Melki) or the professor at the University of Edinburgh himself (Robert Hillenbrand). Obviously the good professor never took his AP US History course. For that matter, I wonder if he ever taught at dear old Dartmouth!