What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students

Apr 03, 2013 |  Michael Toscano, Peter Wood

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What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students

Apr 03, 2013 | 

Michael Toscano, Peter Wood

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine is a highly-regarded liberal arts college—one of the oldest in the country. Bowdoin is the alma mater of great writers (Hawthorne, Longfellow), war heroes (Joshua Chamberlain) and a U.S. president (Franklin Pierce). But Bowdoin is also a before and after story. Before 1969, it was a college with strong intellectual traditions, a core curriculum, and a commitment to Western Civilization. But after 1969, it abolished all general education requirements and turned from what it called “collegiate” education to what its president at the time called “liberating” education. Out went the old standards and in came a new focus on race, class, gender, and the environment. Out went the old style of scholarly generalists as teachers and in came the new style of research specialists as faculty members. The new Bowdoin dedicated itself to the achievement of social justice and to reshaping America in the image of progressive politics. Bowdoin today is the direct heir of these major shifts. Bowdoin claims that these changes have transformed the college into an educational experience which is far superior to its older model. According to Bowdoin, the education it offers in 2012-2013 is the best education that it has ever offered. The National Association of Scholars tests these claims by thoroughly examining what Bowdoin teaches, through its formal curriculum, student life, and the relationships between students and faculty members.

Download the PDF: What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students

Download the Executive Summary: The Evidence of Things Unnoticed: An Interpretive Preface to What Does Bowdoin Teach?

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Image: “Bowdoin Bear” by Gwyn Fisher / CC BY

M. Mobley

| April 05, 2013 - 11:04 PM

Ha ha…good one. Is this a spoof? Someone put a lot of work into such an elaborate April Fools joke. Wait, is this a serious report? Are you guys the same people who were outside the coffee shop today with the “Impeach Obama” poster with a Hitler mustache drawn on it?

The problem with people like NAS is that you are willing to defend traditional values and the like while keeping your heads deep in the sand and excluding “diversity” from your little circle of “traditional.”

According to you, “The new Bowdoin dedicated itself to the achievement of social justice and to reshaping America in the image of progressive politics.” Wow, just awful, huh? Social justice and progress. It just keeps me up at night, rolling and sweating, worrying about how my Bowdoin education encouraged me to be concerned about others. I wish I had been born a few decades - or centuries - earlier and could have been encouraged to perpetuate the same old discrimination that kept your wonderful and traditional Great White Men in power. Yep, I sure do miss regressive values.

Too bad none of you NAS writers ever had a professor inspire you to greater humanity. Bowdoin has a few of them kicking around; maybe you should go sit in on some classes before your next book report.

David Treadwell

| April 06, 2013 - 2:16 AM

Ha! My post from last night and others critical of the “report” have been deleted. I guess this organization doesn’t really want open debate.

Michael Toscano

| April 06, 2013 - 10:14 AM

David Treadwell, we have not deleted any comments. They can be found on “Commencing the Bowdoin Conversation,” where you originally posted them. Thank you for your thoughts.


| April 06, 2013 - 11:34 AM

Mobley, I dint expect your college-cocooned mind to get beyond semantics, but I expect you’d support North Korean style gulag progressivism so long as they’re called happy camps. Who would fear happy camps? I could throw some anti-white racism into the argument and you’d be all for it.

Truth is, communism or whatever you call it is old as dirt and hardly progressive at all. The philosophy of liberty and individualism has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with a prosperous civilization. Diversity of thought means challenging the lies you hold onto so dearly.


| April 06, 2013 - 11:53 AM

Well, M. Mobley
Any comments on the content or just an attack on the messenger? I know that the Berkley prof, his name escapes me at the moment, advocates always attack and to never, ever respond to the subject, and I also know that the adherents of this method endlessly troll the internet looking for subversives, so Good Job. Now be a good communist and go make yourself feel good by starving someone to death.


| April 06, 2013 - 12:53 PM

This isn’t specific to Bowdoin. When I was in college 30 years ago I was regularly exposed to the contemptible ideologic intolerance of the left. I was called a “babykiller” by a throng of rabid “religious” studies majors simply because I was wearing my ROTC uniform to class. I had eggs thrown at me in the cafeteria while eating with friends, again because I was in my army ROTC uniform. I even had a history professor in my ancient roman history class - with whom I had previously enjoyed a congenial relationship - sneer at me the day I walked into class in my ROTC uniform as he said, “Oh…you’re one of THOSE guys….you probably like Reagan, too, don’t you?”  From that poo int forward I was unable to get anytjing higjer than a B grade in his class.

Leftists cannot tolerate diversity of thought, because their pathetic magical-thinking based concepts cannot every stand up to critical analysis.

Mobey- I have been calling for Obama’s impeachment ever since he forced socialist health care upon us with his lies. I don’t need to paint a Hitlerian caricature of Obama. ..he does that quite well enough himself.

Kevin Mencken

| April 06, 2013 - 1:15 PM

@M. Mobley   Mr. Mobley, I find it telling that you can’t conceive of an intelligent, well meaning, person who disagrees with your politics.  That attitude says quite a bit about you ... and none of it good.

Armed and Larry

| April 06, 2013 - 1:31 PM

I notice the longest answer (Mobley) debates using insults. Another typical leftist who gives lip service to diversity and yet cannot tolerate opinions that differ from his own.

Hey Mobley, how’s that liberal arts degree working out for you? You sure had a lot of time to type that response.

Alo Konsen

| April 06, 2013 - 2:15 PM

Well, Mr. Mobley?  Any response beyond sneering non sequiturs?  It’s a tall order for a cultural Marxist like you, but surely you can give it the old college try.


| April 06, 2013 - 2:29 PM

Interesting how the intolerant use the Great White Men in power myth as a straw man to support their own bias and prejudice.

On another note.  Does Bowdoin College provide an education for a career path that doesn’t require grants for funding?


| April 06, 2013 - 2:45 PM

This college is graduating idiots. They have dumbed down the curriculum to the extent the college is meaningless. The graduates would do as good watching MSNBC and John Stewart for a year, and nothing else.


| April 06, 2013 - 3:45 PM

Multiply this report by hundreds of other colleges and universities across the nation, and you begin to see why the country is as screwed up as it is.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the efforts of The Frankfurt School are coming to fruition; a socialized nation brought to its knees not from any enemy outside the border, but from traitors and Marxist sycophants within.  Marcus Tullius Cicero was indeed a prophet…


| April 06, 2013 - 4:06 PM

“Social justice and progress.”

Let’s see: an undefinable term, and an inaccurate one.

Anybody out there got a definition of “social justice”?  I have found several, the most harmless of which simply translates to “justice”, with most translating to a socialistic redistribution system.  No thanks!  “Justice” is fine by itself, “social justice” is useless at best.

As is typical, you take the term “progressive” and equate it with “progress”.  The two are opposites.  “Progressives” have no interest in progress, as is evidenced by their constant desire for an all-powerful state to enforce their peculiar ideas of “fairness”.

Rational Db8

| April 06, 2013 - 5:21 PM

How do so many commentators here fail to understand the distinction between requiring a well rounded basic core curriculum, versus a student chosen biased curriculum selected from a smorgasbord of primarily narrow and specialized classes?  The former doesn’t disallow taking optional specialized courses in addition to the core curriculum.  Nor is it in any way racist or ‘white biased.’  The latter, however, isn’t likely to ever result in a well rounded unbiased education.

A well rounded core curriculum is designed by well rounded EDUCATORS to provide a balanced education to students, who come to learn, after all, from those who have a greater knowledge than they do. 

How is a student supposed to ensure that they are receiving a well rounded education, when they haven’t the education yet to even be able to know what that consists of?  How are they to receive a well rounded education, which helps ensure they are able to fully integrate themselves into a healthy society, if they are allowed to choose only courses which focus on very narrow areas? 

Some people here seem to be missing the forest for the trees… perhaps because their education only consisted of those very trees, and thus they lack the education, experiences, and critical thinking skills necessary to discern the forest.

Rational Db8

| April 06, 2013 - 5:27 PM

Oops, my last comment was referring to commentators who had posted in the “Commencing the Bowdoin Conversation” comment section.  Apparently I’m not the only one who thought we were still on the same comment section, but wound up here instead.

Greg Walker

| April 06, 2013 - 6:47 PM

There is nothing more reactionary than a progressive acting in defense of his pet form of fascism.

Armed and Larry

| April 06, 2013 - 9:50 PM

Wow, I thought Mobley had returned to haunt the thread in the form of Rational db8, it ALMOST made sinse too, which gave it more credibility.

Rational Db8

| April 06, 2013 - 9:57 PM

@Armed and Larry | April 06, 2013 - 9:50 PM

Too bad your post doesn’t make sense, as Mobley’s comment and mine are about as diametrically opposed as one can get.

I tell you what - if I “ALMOST made sense,” how about you try actually presenting an argument showing how I failed to make sense, and we can go from there.  That would be a bit more mature than ridicule sans content.

Armed and Larry

| April 06, 2013 - 10:13 PM

@Rational db8
So you’re saying the commentors on this thread are failing to see what again?

Then you lecture on how educators know what’s best?

Then you almost reinforce what we were talking about.

Then a general comment on how we are all blinded by the trees, almost made sinse.

Then oops wrong thread and then my comment, noteing how your comment had me thinking critically about your message as it relates to this thread.

Frankly you are the one who missed the point I was making on this thread and then ridiculed me.

Armed and Larry

| April 06, 2013 - 10:23 PM

Ah, I missed part of your point too, my apologies for connecting you with a liberal thinker. Fighting words in my book too.

Sorry about the double post.

Rational Db8

| April 06, 2013 - 10:30 PM

@armed and larry

  “So you’re saying the commentors on this thread are failing to see what again?”

Obviously you saw my apology for posting to the wrong thread before your comment, so you knew full well I wasn’t referring to commentators here.

  “Then you lecture on how educators know what’s best?”

Actually what I was saying is that educators dared well ought to know more than incoming students.  You disagree?  If so, why do we have schools at all?

  “Then you almost reinforce what we were talking about.”

It seems to me, even after having read all the comments here, that there was more than one side being presented by various people.  My comment still directly relates to some of those comments, and it certainly related to the article itself.

  “Then a general comment on how we are all blinded by the trees, almost made sinse.”

So again, I will ask you - how did I not make sense?  And why are you loath to address this aspect of your post (which I think most would agree was an attempt to ridicule, without providing any justification)?

    “Then oops wrong thread and then my comment, noteing how your comment had me thinking critically about your message as it relates to this thread.”

Always happy to instigate critical thought. 

    “Frankly you are the one who missed the point I was making on this thread and then ridiculed me.”

So enlighten me - what point of yours did I miss?  I’m always open to better understanding of someone else’s point.

Rational Db8

| April 06, 2013 - 10:34 PM

re: Armed and Larry | April 06, 2013 - 10:23 PM

“Ah, I missed part of your point too, my apologies for connecting you with a liberal thinker. Fighting words in my book too.

Sorry about the double post.”

Thanks Larry, we’re ok then.  :0)  Please also note, I was composing my last reply to you and so had no way to see this last post of yours until after I’d hit submit and the page refreshed.

Lee Reynolds

| April 07, 2013 - 6:34 AM

I’ve a few thoughts to contribute BEFORE I take the time to read this report. 

How can Bowdoin hope to attract students if their once great curriculum has been replaced with cultural Marxism, and other variants of the same?  Only Marxists send their sons and daughters away to be “educated” as Marxists.  Normal people want their sons and daughters PROTECTED from such malignant nonsense, not spoon fed it.

For some time now schools like Bodowin have been able to skate by because no one was really paying attention to what they were teaching.  Alumni assumed that things were the same as when they were students.  Employers and the public at large assumed that universities were places of learning and inquiry, and most of all places whose missions were the pursuit of truth.  Now the nation is waking up to the fact that, to a frighteningly large degree, our universities have been taken over by far left radicals whose notions of what is real and true would qualify them for a room in a psychiatric hospital.

Some would argue that these universities need to be re-captured, salvaged, rescued, and reformed.

I don’t think so.

Instead of fighting to reclaim territory lost to the enemy, strike out into unchartered territory and destroy the power of the enemy by transcending it.

Right now there are half a dozen companies and organizations that are offering college level courses online…for free.  Udacity, Coursera, EdX, and others whose names I don’t remember.  The courses they offer are drawn directly from the coursework at major universities and are being taught by the faculty responsible for the content.  Best of all, ANYONE can go look at these courses and judge the the validity of what is being taught.

At the moment, the impact of these startups is minimal.  Education without credit hours from an accredited school is valuable, or I should say it is as valuable as the knowledge and understanding it imparts, but it won’t help you get that pretty piece of paper that so many people want you to have before they will offer you gainful employment.

I expect that this will come to change.  In exactly what way I do not know, but I’m fairly certain that methods of validating coursework done through these entities, or their successors, will come to fruition.

Which brings me back to my original question.  How can Bowdoin hope to attract students when their once great curriculum has been destroyed?

I sure as hell wouldn’t go there, and I had SAT scores back in the day that qualified me for just about anywhere.

They can attract students today because those students see Bodowin and other schools as a toll bridge to gainful employment.  But if that role is undermined and possibly even destroyed, then why would anyone continue to play along?  Why pay $xx,xxx when you can achieve the same market value for your services by spending far less, and without having to suffer through 4 years of being lied to by tenured radicals?

If Bowdoin wants to be the kind of place where Bill Ayers and others of his ilk send their progeny, then that’s fine.  In fact that is a good thing as it will make it easier for the rest of us to identify and exclude those individuals from our lives and places of business.

Jim Pyles

| April 08, 2013 - 3:50 PM

Holy smoke! I had no idea my son was being so corrupted by such a liberal institution. Here I thought he was simply getting a great education in philospohy and neuroscience and all the while he was being converted into a facist! Wow, and the people who hired him to pursue his neuroscience research after graduation were apparently misled as well.

From my reading of the comments it would appear that Bowdoin has as many right-wing crackpots as any other school. Refreshing.

Tim Steury

| April 08, 2013 - 8:07 PM

My son is a sophomore at Bowdoin, and I have to say, I don’t recognize the Bowdoin alluded to in this report. His adviser is a neocon and author of American Virtues: Thomas Jefferson on the Character of a Free People.  The only thing I’ve been surprised by is how “conservative” my son’s economic ideas have become over the past year or so!  Likewise, the only thing I learned from this report was that the NAS is even more specious and irrelevant than I had thought.


| April 08, 2013 - 9:10 PM

And now that Rush Limbaugh has chimed in, this conversation has officially jumped the shark.



| April 09, 2013 - 5:32 AM

I’m curious.  I no longer see my earlier comment here in the mix.  Why?

David Treadwell

| April 09, 2013 - 6:03 AM

With friends like Rush Limbaugh (who chimed in re the trashing of Bowdoin), who needs enemies?  Can Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity be far behind?

Michael Toscano

| April 09, 2013 - 8:57 AM

Ron, your original comments were made on another thread, “Commencing the Bowdoin Conversation.” You will find them there.


| April 09, 2013 - 9:17 AM

Thanks Mike.  Congratulations on a great, provocative paper; it’s had quite a ripple effect which, I think, is destined to become a Tsunami.


| April 09, 2013 - 9:47 PM


Russell Young

| April 10, 2013 - 1:31 PM

Does this organization have nothing better to do. Its not like Bowdoin is free or a government entity for gods sake. Its a liberal arts college, what do you expect them to teach, metal shop. Everyone knows what they are getting going in, or should. If you want a conservative education go find a different college, they exist. People send their kids to Bowdoin and the like to get trained how to think clearly,write and present. Why otherwise would Consulting firms, Wall St firms and other bastions of conservatism show up to hire the graduates. In the long run what they get taught at Bowdoin rarely shapes who people become

J. Seneca

| April 10, 2013 - 2:36 PM

Mr. Mobley

The progressive movement, which you so readily identify with “social justice” has mutated into the Secular Liberalism of contemporary America.  If the murder of millions of innocent children, a civil rights movement that ended in the creation of a permanent black underclass, the dismantling of marriage and the traditional family, a so-called “sexual revolution” that has reduced human sexuality to animal copulation, a rise in all sorts of superstitions such as the neopaganism of the New Age and the environmental movement, a degraded educational system, the false morality of relativism,  corrupt public and private sectors dominated by greed and the power of money, millions of non-assimilated aliens, endless wars, an idiot culture and a debt burden anticipated to be 20 trillion by the end of Obama’s term—all pointing to a whole civilization moving headlong towards it own destruction, then I guess your right.

Rational Db8

| April 10, 2013 - 4:18 PM

@Russell Young | April 10, 2013 - 1:31 PM

What do you have against privately funded research?  Is it your contention that only education at publicly funded institutions should be evaluated?  If so, why?  Are privately funded educations not also of interest and impact in our society?

How do you manage to miss that this isn’t about conservative vs. liberal eduction?  It’s about how a classic liberal education which ensured a well rounded graduate has morphed into a narrow, twisted progressive agenda which cannot produce a well rounded education.

Did it never occur to you that perhaps those showing up to hire recent graduates are doing so primarily because of the institutions reputation, built back when they produced well rounded graduates, and because they had no way of knowing how biased and twisted the present day curricula there has become?

Lisa Peterson

| April 10, 2013 - 11:49 PM

I’m choosing to comment on one section in detail, speaking from a place of expertise. As a Bowdoin alumn and a certified rape crisis counselor, I was shocked at the complete lack of research and total lack of regard for the experiences of rape survivors in the Sex and Sexuality section. I would point out that the FBI definition of rape (“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” ) very neatly matches up with Bowdoin’s definition of sexual intercourse, and stipulates that intercourse without consent is, of course, rape. To this point, I am very confused about the placement of consent in quotation marks, as though it is a notion Bowdoin dreamed up. Consensual sex is not merely an ethnical concern as your report suggests, it is a legal one. I am also unclear about what the alternative is. Are you hoping for the school to encourage students to engage in coerced, manipulated, or assented sexual behavior?

Your report also suggests that Bowdoin is inflating prevalence data of sexual assault on college campuses. This assertion is even more perplexing given the large amount of literature available on the subject. It would appear that your researchers have never conducted a literature review before, or perhaps they have forgotten the web address for google. To assist them, I’m happy to include at least one report you can peruse at your leisure and educate yourself on the subject: http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/nisvs/

These frank and open conversations are essential to ensure students have access to accurate information about sex and sexuality. It is clear that this information is gravely needed given your report’s apparent embarrassment to discuss sex and sexuality. Fortunately, I am able to elucidate for you that the inclusion of “inanimate objects” in the definition of sexual intercourse reflects the use of sex toys during intercourse. Further, it is important to capture anal and oral sex as acts of sexual intercourse, given the very real potential health consequences associated with each. Given your discomfort with what you term Bowdoin’s “hook-up culture” I also would have thought you would want students to treat oral sex as a sexual act that demands the same needs for consent, communication, and consideration before deciding to engage with a partner. This clear incongruity further demonstrates to me that this report is not a well-researched, objective study, but a subjective collection of petty complaints.

Andrew Davis

| April 11, 2013 - 9:41 AM

I find it amusing when a one percenter like Tom Klingenstein is willing to spend over $100K to have his sycophant Peter Wood prepare a study to further his ultra-conservative political agenda (and perhaps because he feels slighted by President Mills). This is somewhat akin to the Koch Family’s funding of the the Tea Party.

To me Bowdoin will always be best represented by the likes of General (and Bowdoin professor) Joshua Chamberlain, hero of Gettysburg and Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Bowdoin’s Appleton Hall. Both of whom were willing to fight against the evils of slavery and were most likely lambasted by conservatives of the time for trying to take away the assets of the one percenters.

Bowdoin is a top tier “Liberal Arts College” introducing students to a wide variety of thoughts and philosophies unlike Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University a “Conservative Ideology College.”


| April 11, 2013 - 4:23 PM

It is unfortunate that this is what conservatism has become.  It is highly disingenuous for the authors, and for the folks sponsoring this project, to think that they know anything about the world they live in, or the America they live in.  The essence of America is about cultural diversity, that’s what makes it an amazing place.  Liberal arts colleges such as Bowdoin try to create a diverse student body to achieve what America has - a vibrant community where ideas from different perspectives are exchanged.  The common American identity that you speak of IS that we are all different.  We have different ethnic backgrounds, different races, languages, cultures, cuisines, habits and sexual orientation.  And this experiment has worked for over 200 years in America.  Colleges like Bowdoin embody this heterogeneous quality of America to create a microcosm of what this country actually is.  Conservative and bigoted views such as yours deserve to receive “close-minded” treatment.  National Association of “Scholars”?  What a joke.  What is your scholarship about - reviving hatred, creating homogenous white societies and ignoring reality?  If you are resorting to “provocation” to get your report noticed rather than letting it stand on its own merits (Boston Globe story), there must be something wrong with what’s in there.


| April 11, 2013 - 7:14 PM

I started to read the first 70 or 80 pages of the report and was shocked by what passes for scholarship at NAS. Assumptions are not facts and anecdotes do not serve as consensus. The attempt to smear liberals with their own words works for those who hear the dog whistles in the buzzwords that set right wing hearts a flutter.
You do your cause, or in this case, your ideology a disservice by following the formula you accuse Bowdoin of following. Try harder next time someone pays you $100,000 to support their narrow view of educational values.

Armed and Larry

| April 11, 2013 - 7:33 PM

Wow, sounds great. But then again, what kind of job will I get with a liberal arts degree?

I wouldn’t mind being a civil war hero but that opening is closed and out of date. Would they change the curriculum back to what it was back then for those of us who want to be military officers, heros, and patriots?

Lots of hot air from the liberals here but no bottom line, liberals ruin everything they touch. Multiculturalism sounds great but where is the tolerance for conservative views? Diversity is OK as long as it’s YOUR definition and nobody elses. A bit hypocritical in my opinion but as a conservative my view is hate and doesn’t have any value, diverse or otherwise.

Go back to your ivory tower and think happy, happy thoughts all day. Easier for you to insult differing views than think critically. Or is it that you really can’t defend what liberals have done whenever they get any responsibility. What are they teaching there again, diversity and multiculturalism? I’m not impressed, sorry.

Part One

| April 11, 2013 - 8:55 PM

The following opinion was submitted, posted , and subsequently removed from the Bowdoin College website today. As an alumnus of Bowdoin, I cannot help but view this response as emblematic of the greater issues raised in the NAS Report:

The genesis and perpetuation of the now infamous NAS study of Bowdoin College began innocently enough on the golf course. While the game of golf is meant to be enjoyable, it is more often a humbling experience and I regularly leave the course in a foul mood. The culprit is generally my deteriorating game or the asinine comments made by someone in my foursome. I cannot help but view the Mills/Klinenstein event ( played out on a national stage ) as and example of how two individuals with breath-takingingly high opinions of themselves deal with similar realities of a game.

While I do not believe Mills set out to single out Klinenstein when he recollected his controversial comments and actions from this golf game in his 2010 Convocation Speech. However, they were specific and provacative enough that a copy of this speech made its way onto Klinenstein’s desk. Klinenstein believes that Mills paints him out as a racist and he prepares to take the familiar adage, “payback is a bitch” to the penultimate level. This is a glimpse of how the monied and academic elite resolve everyday issues in today’s society.

I would have hoped that Mills could have used his vast and proven communication skills to have ironed out his differences with Klinenstein before the commissioning of the NAS study. Perhaps Mills could have explained that he needed some additional ‘color’ for his 2010 Convocation speech and excercised poor judgement in recounting a story where the protagonist was so easy to discoverable. I hope that in hind-sight Mills would have handled this differently. I truthfully hope that Mills’ ego did not prevent him from reaching across the table to mend a broken fence because failure at any point to reach an accord plays right into the description of Bowdoin’s Administration in the NAS study.

Clearly this entire event was personal and I feel that one should view this Report through this very one-sided lense. However, there are items contained in this Report that I find disturbing. They are not earth-shattering and they all seem to be very fixable. We are all very proud members of Bowdoin College, dare I say as close as some families. I am sure Mills is emboldened by both the density and diversity of his supporters. My comments are personal and meant to be constructive, not destructive.

I have read/skimmed the entire document and be entirely dismissive of the Report would again reinforce stereotypes assigned to us by the NAS study. I found some information to be very informative and consistent with my own experience at Bowdoin College. My first concern began with Addmissions where I lauded Bowdoin’s decision to be an “SAT Optional” school. Having had only average SAT scores; I thought they were very progressive when they articulated their rationale for making these scores optional. I certainly was NOT aware that they purchased and examined the SAT Reports on all students and the Report revealed what I believe was a duplicitous act that began even before I matriculated.

Part Two

| April 11, 2013 - 8:57 PM

I suspected a liberal bias b/c Bowdoin is afterall an academic institution; the denigration and broad stereo-typing of the conservative opinion was alarming. I think that the college can do more to help foster a more balanced approach and undertsand that conservatives, like liberals come in varying shapes and sizes.

Political affiliation and the divide between the two parties in the real world needs to be both explored and understood. We have all witnessed the divisiveness of bi-partisan politics in this nation. For better or worse, this is our political system and an unbias education of both parties would be a helpful tool for all undergraduates to learn objectively. I cannot help but think Bowdoin’s disproportionate number of democratic faculty create a bias within their curriculum. I think Bowdoin could better prepare its graduates with more critical thinking on both political parties.

Also, the way in which the administration chose to interpret the fraternity survey, which clearly ran contrary to their pre-existing agenda rather than the truth – was upsetting. My Bowdoin experience as well as many of my contemporaries was heavily influenced and enhanced by the fraternity system.

Also, and I understand this is the “third-rail” up at Bowdoin, but one reason for the fielty the collective student body has with the Administration is a function of fear coupled with the reality that any endeavor that conflicts with the tenents of the Administration is doomed to failure. There are a great deal of unique students who are also non-conformists. However, unless your non-conformity can be identified, codified, and examined – it is stifled. Bowdoin goes out of their way to address clinical non-conformity with their Gay Straight Programs, Transgender Program, etc.. I do not think they do enough to foster non-conformity that is undefinable or flies in the face of the prevailing drum-beat of the Administration.

I do not have a solution or even an idea on how Bowdoin can foster and develop this trait, I just think it would be useful to study this further. I think critical thinking and even anti-establishment discussion would be helpful. The majority of successful alumnus in the working world have flourished because of their non-conformity, rather than being really expert in the prevailing conformist views.

Finally, the Report describes Mills and Sills contemplating changes the school might endure during tough socio-economic times, I think Mills seems out of touch when he states Bowdoin would be “less admirable” if an extra-curricular event might be slashed due to economic uncertanty. Extra-curricular activities enhanced my experiences at Bowdoin, but never defined my experience. If Bowdoin were forced to revert to the original three class-rooms in Mass Hall, I am sure the most value and admirable ‘take-away’ from Bowdoin would remain the same as when I graduated – the life-long friendships that were made beneath those whispering pines

Andrew Davis

| April 12, 2013 - 2:58 PM

Hey Armed and Larry,

Regarding your comment “I wouldn’t mind being a civil war hero .... Would they change the curriculum back to what it was back then”

I am a Vietnam Veteran who volunteered in 1965 at 17 years old and served for 4 years. In Vietnam I was stationed with Inshore Undersea Warfare Group I Unit 3.

I’ve also been a registered Republican since 1972 and do not consider myself either a Liberal nor a Conservative, however, I admit I feel my party is moving away from me (General Eisenhower wouldn’t recognize todays Republican Party).

My comment on Bowdoin and the Civil war was to illustrate how the school was willing to take a stance against the entrenched beliefs of the day by espousing that owning people as property was wrong. By freeing the slaves, the U.S. Government in effect confiscated assets/private property from individuals worth untold millions, a move Mr. Klingenstein’s Claremont Institute would have been appalled at had they existed in the day since their stated mission is “...To recover the founding principles in our political life. . . a limited and accountable government that respects private property, promotes stable family life, and maintains a strong national defense.”

I believe the ethos Bowdoin represented back then continues today. We see it in their concern for the less fortunate who don’t have the resources to influence the political discourse that the Kingenstein’s, Koch’s, and other one percenters have.  We see it in their push for diversity which has served our Nation well (my own father came from Patras, Greece).

I don’t see this concern as “Liberal” but rather as Christian. Jesus said in a parable “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me . . . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:34-36, 40).

Or, if you prefer Johnny Cash’s words:
“Well, you wonder why I always dress in black. . .
I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town, I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime, But is there because he’s a victim of the times. I wear the black for those who never read, or listened to the words that Jesus said,  About the road to happiness through love and charity. . . But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back, Up front there ought ‘a be a Man In Black. I wear it for the sick and lonely old, For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold”

The fact that Kingenstein can fork over $100K to commission a pre-ordained negative study as part of a vendetta against an individual and a highly respected university shows the imbalance of power between our “democracy’s” wealthy vs. our middle class & poor.


| April 13, 2013 - 3:04 PM

@Andrew Davis

I’m curious, just which part of today’s Republican Party wouldn’t Ike recognize? I always hear people like you say the Party has moved away from them. I just watched some campaign commercials from 1956. Ike ran on,“home and family”, “faith in God” “Faith in man” “self reliance”. “As little interference from government as possible”. I didn’t hear anything about the “1 percent”. Speaking of which, did you see how much that man of the people Joe Biden contributed to charity last year? A whopping 2 percent. Your comments speculating that Claremont and its Board members would have fought the end of slavery are beneath contempt. You Sir, with your race baiting and contempt for capitalism, would fit right in at today’s Bowdoin. Congratulations.

Andrew Davis

| April 14, 2013 - 5:07 PM


Let’s review why I believe today’s Republican party is not that of Eisenhower’s and why I feel the Party I joined has drifted away from me and others like me.

In 1956 Ike signed the interstate highway system into law. Using Federal dollars he began building this great national infrastructure.  While using National Security as justification, this system was and continues to be a boon to the free flow of goods and services aiding to the expansion of our economy, to the growth of our businesses, and to the overall common good of all our citizens connecting even remote areas.  I’m not certain, but I think today’s Grand Old Party would find this “Big Government intrusion into the private sector.” If it requires raising revenues Today’s GOP controlled House won’t even authorize and appropriate funds to rebuild our aging and crumbling bridge system (one of the backbones of our interstate system enabling our successful capitalist system)

Self-sacrifice seems to be a thing of the past. We fight wars while reducing taxes running up huge deficits. What ever happened to funding our need to interject ourselves militarily through taxes, war bonds or other means?  I don’t know your history Victor, however I do know too many of today’s politicians haven’t performed military service nor experienced the battlefield as General Eisenhower and many of us Vietnam Vets and our current young men and women in uniform have. These Pols have no idea what self sacrifice means.

What else, oh, Ike declared racial discrimination a National Security issue and signed into law the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960. Then Federalized the Arkansas National Guard as well as sending the “Screaming Eagles” (the great 101st airborne) to Arkansas to protect and escort black children into an all-white school. Something I cannot see today’s GOP leaders doing.

What he didn’t do may be even more important that what he did do.  He left The Banking Act of 1933 (Glass-Steagall) in place. I presume I don’t need to explain to an intelligent person like yourself why this act was initially put in place nor what happened to our economy since its repeal. He also didn’t push for government intrusion into people’s personal lives and bedrooms, what today is called “social issues.”

“Race Baiting?” A cheap shot to say the least.  Also one of those words used by your type to obscure the truth.  Words like “class warfare”.  Yes there is class warfare but you folks have turned it on its head.  The war is being conducted by the elite on the middle class and poor.  Remember when we used to have usury laws preventing banks from charging more that 6.5% on credit cards?

Remember when we had a countervailing force to monopolistic/oligopolistic behavior through unions protecting workers? Remember when we had a manufacturing industrial base which supported middle class jobs as well our National Security. Which we could call upon to support us during wartime. Next war perhaps China will be nice enough to build our Liberty Ship equivalents, M1’s, and Bradley Fighting Vehicles (oops, the latter are no longer produced by an American company having been bought by BAE).

“Enemy of Capitalism”, “self-reliance” I will have you know sir I came from the foster home system and through my service to my country in Vietnam was fortunate enough to have our “Bloated Government” provide me with the GI Bill which I used to get a great education including an MBA which I then used along with hard work to become a CEO. With cutbacks in Government services and raising tuition costs many of today’s less fortunate will not be able to follow in my footsteps.  You Sir, are a narrow minded ideologue with no idea what you’re talking about nor who you’re talking with.

Andrew Davis

| April 14, 2013 - 5:21 PM


Forgot to add, I stand by my earlier statement about Mr. Klingenstein’s Claremont Institute.

As to “home and family” and “faith in God”. I have raised and put four wonderful children through college. I have also served as a Stephens Minister. You ideologues should re-acquaint yourselves with the teachings of our Lord and Savior in order to learn your duty to your fellow man. You spend too much time preaching from the old testament.


| April 15, 2013 - 1:10 AM


It’s too bad there’s still no substance to your reply against me and “my type”. It’s really unfortunate that you had to double down with another round of race baiting to imply that today’s Republicans would deny anyone their civil rights. Andrew you may not know that many of today’s Republicans are working hard to get inner city black and other minority kids into decent schools and out of the NEA hell holes they’re stuck in. The only people standing in the school house doors these days are the modern Democrat Bull Connors in the teacher’s union movement. Don’t believe me? Go to Democratic strongholds in Detroit, Chicago and LA and see for yourself.  Democrats are owned lock, stock and barrel by the unions and don’t give a damn about those poor kids. If they did, why are we spending more money than ever and getting such terrible results, especially in places where there are no mean Republicans to thwart the benevolent Democrats? Where’s the accountability Andrew? You’re going to have to come up with a more substantive answer than “mean Republicans sticking their nose in people’s bedrooms.”

Regarding infrastructure. Where is all the infrastructure from the nearly $1 Trillion we added to the federal budget baseline every year since 2009. We should have gotten gold plated bridges by now. Infrastructure? How about the Keystone Pipeline? Does that count Andrew? Last I checked, a bunch of Republicans were trying to convince Obama to step aside and allow middle and lower class laborers to build a badly needed connection from northern oil fields to southern plains refineries. Thousands of miles of pipeline already exist in this country but somehow, building this one will turn the planet into toast (just ask the enviro purists at Bowdoin).

No Andrew, sadly Republicans and Democrats are both in favor of out of control spending. Obama doubled down on Bush’s idiotic spending and deficits and now MY three beautiful kids are staring $17 Trillion of public debt and about $90 Trillion of unfunded liabilities in the face. There isn’t enough money available from all the 1% you hate so much to pay that bill, even if you confiscate everything they have.

Andrew, you’re the one that seems to be pretty good at preaching and moralizing with fire and brimstone. Your rhetoric about the “right wing” sounds good to you and your closed circle of friends, but you can’t specify where all this is going. The Federal government is now nearly 25% of GDP, against the historical peace time average of 18%. Yet, you want to confiscate more of what’s not yours to grow it even bigger, all in the name of some distorted version of Christianity that you preach. Sorry Andrew, I won’t be shamed by your cheap pontificating. I’m not part of the elite (that’s mostly Democrats these days) but I can do math. Just think if some of these facts were discussed in freshman survey courses at places like Bowdoin. We might actually make some progress.

Andrew Davis

| April 15, 2013 - 10:09 AM


Your arguements are weak at best and based more on ideologyy than fact.  For instance you show a lack of understanding on what has happened to our refinery capacity.  The deregulated oil industry morphed into a few large companys. They in turn began systematically taking refineries off line limiting capacity keeping pump prices high. Oligopolies and monopolies are an anathma to capitalism.

I must thank The National Association of Scholars for allowing diverse oplnion to be expressed here.

We have overstayed our welcome on this site. I would be happy to continue this discussion in a different forum of yout choosing if you so desire.


| April 15, 2013 - 11:55 AM


I am content to keep the discussion here. This discussion sprung up around a report that took a look at what’s going on at a typical American “elite’ liberal arts institution of higher learning in the early 21st Century. The speeches of the College President, the composition of the faculty and the course offerings were all analyzed in a very thorough manner. Yet, the knee jerk reaction of the defenders of the status quo was to delegitimize the work as the product of some “right wing” vendetta. You say my arguments are “weak and based on ideology.”  I simply responded to your collage of stereotypes and shopworn memes about today’s conservative movement with a few verifiable facts and observations. Unfortunately, you have displayed the close mindedness and lack of intellectual curiosity that afflicts far too many of our citizens today.  You were right to thank NAS for allowing diverse opinions to be stated in this forum. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Bowdoin, and others in the grip of Political Correctness, allowed similar debate instead of demonizing those who disagree?


| April 15, 2013 - 2:17 PM

All the talk about “diversity,” particularly at “elite” colleges and universities, is meaningless drivel, if the views represented by these “diverse” voices are simply more of the same, only in a different racial, gender or ethnic guise. The ideologues who control most programs in the arts, humanities, and social sciences in such schools do not want to give students the impression that there are respectable views across the political spectrum, and allow them to think for themselves. 
By eliminating all such challenges to their “intellectual” hegemony, they give many students the idea than intellectualism is to be equated with leftism, and that, therefore, conservative or libertarian viewpoints are beyond the pale. This is not education by any stretch. It is indoctrination. Parents and students need to wise up to this educational fraud and shun such institutions that drain their wallets of their hard-earned financial resources and deprive their minds of true and honest intellectual sustenance. I hope Yale professor David Gelernter—author of “America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantles Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats)”—is correct, and that online education and alternative forms of credentialing will allow students to avoid these indoctrination mills and save the vast sums that are leaving millions of students with worthless, often intellectually tendentious, degrees in majors for which there are no jobs and debt that is the equivalent of a lifetime mortgage that will choke their financial futures.

Common Sense

| April 30, 2013 - 8:06 PM

Bowdoin doesn’t need to teach intellectual modesty, self-restraint, hard work, wisdom and culture.  I have already taught my child those virtues before I sent her to Bowdoin. College is about acquiring knowledge and sharing it within a community of intellectuals. What makes you any more qualified to decide what that knowledge is then the students themselves.

Eric Ness

| May 08, 2013 - 7:42 PM

Heard Dr Wood in Minnesota recently.  Great stuff - and awesome study.  Truth often hurts the most to those who insist on remaining in the dark.  Keep it up!!

David C. Morrow

| May 14, 2013 - 5:09 AM

What is “diversity”?
It seems to mean ignoring the information people need while emphasizing their differences for the purpose of increasing conflict.
It means preserving antiquated racism while throwing strident fits about getting rid of it.
Everybody knows everybody is “diverse”.

Joam McGinnis

| June 26, 2013 - 1:04 PM

What a misnomer, like so many things these days, is “Progressive.”  It has genuinely sent us in the WRONG direction.  Just a sign of the times?

Martha Densmore

| April 21, 2014 - 2:24 PM

Mr. Toscano and Mr. Wood, Thank you for this phenomenal study. I became aware of it shortly after the pdf file was public. My father Morris graduated from Bowdoin in 1947. For the past two years I have been researching my family history based on 320 letters Morris sent to my mother during the years 1942-1946. Many of the letters were from his first year at Bowdoin in 1943. He is meticulous in details of his classes and the goings on of college life. In all my research of the war years so far, and based on your publication as well, spurred to further investigation of education at that time, I find the years 42-44 at Bowdoin and Bates to be the most interesting. Your research has helped me to focus the lens for my upcoming book. It will most certainly include something special: What Bowdoin Taught. Thanks. http://www.LoveLettersofWW2.com


| February 26, 2015 - 12:58 PM

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| October 22, 2017 - 12:49 PM

You say my arguments are “weak and based on ideology.”  I simply responded to your collage of stereotypes and shopworn memes about today’s conservative movement with a few verifiable facts and observations.

Roland Swan

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