The Dartmouth Observer

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Sunday, June 26, 2005
Me, rapacious by nature?

Chris Bateman of the Little Green Blog has a (provocatively-titled) piece on blogs in the Free Press's Commencement issue. While rather unkind to Joe Malchow, he does compliment this blog for having "provided thoughtful center-right commentary for years now." Thanks for that, Chris -- although I'm not sure that I "revel in colonizing" and consider myself "rapacious by nature"! (I can't speak for John here. He has mentioned wanting to be President, after all. Do a DND search for him to see what I mean.) The blog was also a quite different (and more rumbustious) place in its earlier years, when others of a more liberal stripe blogged more frequently, and when I perhaps held certain opinions rather more strongly than I do now. Dartobserver might change even further in the future once John returns from his lengthy hiatus and starts graduate school at Chicago.

Well, that was nice

I was back at Dartmouth for Commencement and had an excellent time catching up with friends and professors. And my, was the weather freaky. The first day I got in, it rained like I'd never seen it rain before in all my years in Hanover. Then it got quite hot, as if I'd never left Singapore. And finally, just before I left, the temperature suddenly plunged from 90 to 50, rendering my sandals rather ineffectual against the surprise cold. Still, a great trip: there's nothing quite like returning to your alma mater for the first time after graduating.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005
The Review's Western Culture Survey

The Review surveyed 242 Dartmouth students and found them to be "generally unfamiliar with Western culture," or so says Nat at Dartlog. At Armavirumque, Stefan reveals a few of the funnier answers to the survey questions. Meanwhile, a loony right-winger by the name of Thomas Brewton has decided, based on the survey, that "Dartmouth apparently is failing to impart an understanding of the culture and tradition that constitute our unwritten constitution." This same person believes that "socialism was unconstitutionally established as the official national religion of the United States in 1933" and that our understanding of Western culture since 1960 has been 'nailed tightly the forces of the liberal-socialist jihad." Of course!

Just a few thoughts:
  • I suppose the Liberal Democrats are part of Western culture, broadly defined. But does not being able to identify them really compare with believing that Dante's guide through Hell was Satan?
  • How seriously did the students take the survey? Were they aware that it was the Review doing the surveying? If so, I can imagine some of them answering wrongly just to piss off the Review.
  • 242 students is not representative of Dartmouth as a whole.
  • Wouldn't it have been better to survey seniors only instead? It's entirely conceivable that the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors surveyed might pick up a bit more knowledge of Western culture before graduating. I mean, had I been asked those questions in my freshman spring, I'd have done badly too.
  • I do actually think that our understanding of Western culture has diminished. But contrary to what Thomas Brewton might say, it isn't solely the left's fault. What the right calls "multiculturalism" is, when in excess, part of the problem, but he corporatization of the American university -- a consequence of capitalism -- has been an equally if not more significant factor. Discuss away!
  • Confession: I haven't read The Federalist, the Merchant of Venice, "A Modest Proposal," all of Democracy in America, all of Don Quixote, Faust, and The Brothers Karamazov, but I know all their authors. In other words, while not knowing the authors suggests that you probably do lack knowledge of Western culture, knowing them doesn't mean that you're Jacques Barzun. You could simply have a good memory for names. A more accurate measure of one's knowledge would have to involve more than just "Name that Author." But surveys are far easier to conduct, and are more effective as rhetorical devices (broadly defined).

Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Diversity's Rhetoric

Don Herzog of Left2Right has a smart and sane critique of the University of Oregon's new and absurd Five Year Diversity Plan. Like its more famous predecessor, Oregon's plan sets itself some pretty "lofty" goals. The university will
Require that all requests for new tenure-track searches include an explanation of how the new hire furthers the unit's long-term hiring plan (and therefore meets some aspect of the University’s affirmative action, equity or diversity goals). If a unit believes that a particular hire, by its nature, cannot address these priorities, it needs to provide a rationale for such a claim.
Not only that, but tenure and pay are to be based in part on "demonstrable commitment to cultural competency." What? Can someone please explain how one measures "demonstrable commitment"? What is "cultural competency"?