The Dartmouth Observer

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Translator, please

At first, I thought this op-ed (in response to this article) was in jest. Then I realized the writer was being dead serious. Quote:
I cannot understand, however, how an instructional program geared ultimately toward a male assessment of adequacy accelerates a program whereby women recapture their own agency for self-definition within the means of institutional construction.
Oh dear oh dear...

Sunday, October 24, 2004
Catcher in the Rye - overrated

I read Catcher in the Rye quite some time ago, but I recall being distinctly unimpressed by it. Holden did not come across as a likeable or sympathetic character, and Salinger's prose struck me as prosaic at best. I'm glad that I've found a fellow traveler in Jonathan Yardley:
Viewed from the vantage point of half a century, the novel raises more questions than it answers. Why is a book about a spoiled rich kid kicked out of a fancy prep school so widely read by ordinary Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom have limited means and attend, or attended, public schools? Why is Holden Caulfield nearly universally seen as "a symbol of purity and sensitivity" (as "The Oxford Companion to American Literature" puts it) when he's merely self-regarding and callow? Why do English teachers, whose responsibility is to teach good writing, repeatedly and reflexively require students to read a book as badly written as this one?
Thank you, Mr. Yardley.

Neoconservatism's Liberal Legacy

If you haven't bookmarked, you should. They link to many articles that Arts & Letters Daily doesn't, like this lengthy and fascinating piece on Neoconservatism's Liberal Legacy by Tod Lindberg of the Policy Review. It's a great introduction not just to Neoconservatism and liberalism, but to political philosophy as well.

Thursday, October 21, 2004
Stanley Fish at Dartmouth

First I miss Andrew Sullivan's appearance, and now I can only read about a panel discussion featuring Stanley Fish that rapidly degenerated into a shouting match thanks to Roger Masters, James Murphy, Irene Kacandes, and one of the Review's favorite professors, Don Pease. Why? Did Fish accuse Dartmouth's professors of being anti-American Communist treehuggers? Actually, all that Fish proposed was that professors ought to leave their subjective opinions about topics within their field of expertise out of the classroom. "Come to class, keep up in your discipline, correct your papers, keep office hours, and that's it," he said. Dartmouth's faculty reacted in outrage. After all, said Kacandes, "We must leave the idea of professors as disseminators of truth behind."

I actually think that our Dartmouth professors, their rudeness aside, have a point. Not having been there, I can't contextualize this statement as well as I wish I could, but I very much doubt that Kacandes is denying that there's no such thing as truth. No, she's simply arguing for a more expanded definition of humanities professors' responsibilities to encompass discussion and the exchange of opinions. I'm pretty sure Fish agrees with this. He teaches literature, for goodness sake! He pioneered Reader-Response Theory and the notion of "interpretative communities"!

No, the real point of contention between Fish and the Dartmouth professors was not between facts and opinions, but between opinions and opinions. That is to say, should professors attempt to "change the world" by drawing out the wider socio-political implications of their scholarship? Fish has argued in the past that Theory has no consequences in the sense that it cannot direct practice by providing a general account of interpretation and meaning. As such, as he said at Dartmouth, "Our job is not to change the world but to analyze it." From the standpoint of history, his circumscription of Theory's applicability (which is itself a Theory) is simply wrong, given the proliferation of very consequential totalizing ideologies throughout the 20th century.

As for his exhortation to teach without seeking to change the world, I can sympathize. Roger Masters, as a friend of mine attests, spoke at length about silicoflourides in freshman seminar on Machiavelli, presumably because, as he said to Fish,
"[the professor] has a moral obligation to do something about [a finding or opinion that would have a profound effect on society]." Now I know that Masters has done pioneering work on politics and biology. But is it professional for him to spend so much time in an introductory course on Machiavelli discussing his pet topic? I don't think so. There are of course many more egregious examples around. Put it this way: if a student comes out of a class knowing more about a professor's political views than the subject material, it's time to take some of Fish's advice to heart.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Memo to John

Look, I know you're desperately unhappy at the state of the American political scene, but would you stop using the blog to promote your 2020 Presidential Campaign!!

Voting Strategy 2004

This is where I tell you how you should vote. Yes, I know it's amazingly pretentious but in this election we are casting our votes for millions of persons who, with bated breath and benign indifference, need us to be both responsible and informed. This is a vote that will determine the course of the nation and comes at a critical moment in international affairs.

I. Your BallotFor President: John Kerry
For Vice-President: Write-In, John McCain
For the House: A thrid-party Candidate (but not the Greens)
For the Senate: Any Republican who isn't a racist or a homophobe

II. The Reasons (or the argument that John Kerry would make were he intelligent)

A. Foreign PolicyBush has been simply disastrous for our country's reputation. With resolve, he has blundered from one mess to another like an unfettered bovine on a grassy plain. To his credit, he did correctly identify the reality of international terrorism, and, correctly (much to the chagrin of some of more leftist friends) invade Afghanistan. However, the understaffing of Afghanistan, the wild goose chase in Iraq, the president's refusing to apologize, his casual and cocky dismissal of Kyoto, the ICC, and the ABM treaty all show that resolve and bravado are for naught when misinformation and untruths abound.

That being said, Iraq is the main front in the war on terror, and, I seriously doubt Kerry's resolve to see it through and Bush's ability to carry it out intelligently. The fact of the matter is, as I have said here, liberals inside Iraq have a greater hope for a post-tyranical liberal government on September 11, 2004 than they had on September 11, 2000. Will Kerry's internationalism rebuild Iraq and address the structural inequalities within the international market? Maybe. Will a president who is incapable of seeing, let's forget about admiting, his own errors (being president is "hard work") sucessfully re-oreint American policy after the meandaring, vapid compromises of Clinton? Absolutely not.

B. The Supreme Court
There will probably be many resignations over the next presidential term. Having a split government will promote more moderate justices willing to make the compromises necessary in a multicultural democracy.

C. Domestic Economic Policy
Bush's unrestrained spending, combined with lower taxes, has bankrupted the government. We need the fiscal restraint that real Republicans and Liberatarains offer in the Senate and the House. However, we need to send a message to Mr. Bush that we, the voters, find it unacceptable what he has done.

D. Why Third Party?
We, as the voters of America, need to send a message to Washington that if the two-party system continues to offer us uninspiring choices for leadership, we will turn to alternative sources for our inspiration.

Butts back blogging

Dartobserver member, op-ed columnist for The D, and fellow Alpha Thetian Rob Butts is now blogging full time at Rockyblog. (Thanks to Professor Samwick for reminding me to visit Rockyblog again.)

Vice-Presidential Debates

Much better than the presidential debates. I was working at the library and had to unforunately watch the debates on my laptop. I also have the personal misfortune of having to listen to one of the most vile men in politics, McAuliffe, ramble on about how Cheney looked like an "angry" old man.

::sigh:: Terry just needs to admit that the Kerry-Edwards administration is headed in many wrong directions simulteanously. Whereas the Bush-Cheney administration has been a disaster and an embarrasment for America and the world, Edward's poor grasp of the relevant issues: how No Child Left Behind Works, the liberation of Afghanistan, tax cuts for small business owners, and the continuing importance of supporting globalization (including outsourcing "our" jobs) amazed me. While both of the potential vice-presidents were much more articulate and knowledgeable than their bosses whose lines they must support, Edwards (one of the best lawyers in America) was incapable of defending Kerry's plan.

That being said Cheney dropped the ball on the issue of a non-discriminatory marriage laws. Edwards eloquently articulated an acceptable seperate-but-equal clause, and, correctly, accused the Bush Administration of threatning to manipulate the Constitution for political purposes. (Cheney is too ashamed of his own daughter to embrace her, and her identity, in public. His daughter is running his campaign.) Cheney merely thanked Edwards for his kind words about his family.

Unsuprisingly, both candidates are wrong on this issue. Gays and lesbians should not be forced to live under a seperate but equal social regime in the United States. All unions, with the aim of staying together for life, possess equal moral worth and should be accorded the same levels of recognition and rights. As such, similar to the issue of voting and civil rights for blacks where discrimination at the state and local levels had become instituionalized to the point of seeming normal and ubiquitous, equal marriage should be a federal issue. Because no other states will recognize the couples who are married in Masschusetts, the federal government owes these unions equal respect and should nationalize the civil ideal of equality and recognition. Persons who don't believe that this should be a federal issue, or don't believe in the importance of access to civil marriage being open to all consenting adults monogamous unions, are wrong and have missed the boat.

However, in the course of two years (of watching the two year dominance of the GOP on the hill), I've swung from genuinely curious about what Republicans can do for America to genuinely afraid that the GOP was losing any hopes of liberalizing and forgetting its tenuous, and silly, alliance with social conservatives. The Democratic primaries frightened me with megalomaniacs like Dean running against confused protectionists like , but I did have options as I was able to cast my vote for Kucinich. (It boggles my mind the idea that anyone would have supported these persons at anytime.) Two weeks ago, due to lack of paying attention really, I fervently was a Kerry-supporter, and, having been asked about my domestic political leanings by some 08s and attempting to talk some Republican supporters out of voting for Bush-Cheney 04, I decided to due some research on Kerry-Edwards. This research has not only led to a much less fervent support of Mr.. Kerry, but the most intense bout of political/personal depression since the aftermath of election 2000 and the decision in 2003 to invade Iraq. How could both major political parties of the US be committed to its destruction through an awful combination of naiveté, ignorance, and wrong ideas? Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we have to wait 16 years before the Dartmouth takeover of Washington will commence.

Sunday, October 03, 2004
Andrew Samwick has a blog!

Dartmouth economics professor and Rocky Director Andrew Samwick has entered the blogosphere. (Hat-tip: Power Line.) Time to update the blogroll (again).

Which Dartmouth faculty member will be next?

Update: The D has coverage here. Can't they find a better epithet for Sullivan than "essayist"? (Well yes, he does write essays, but surely "political pundit" would be better?) Oh, and that's surely John Stevenson in the picture, doing his best to enhance his visibility on campus. No excuses for not writing that report now, John...