An Exchange on the Bowdoin Report: Harvey Mansfield and Bowdoin's Paul Franco

National Association of Scholars

In a recent exchange in the Claremont Review of Books, Harvey Mansfield and Bowdoin professor of government Paul Franco disagree (and agree) about the National Association of Scholars’ 2013 What Does Bowdoin Teach?

They disagree about its authors. According to Franco, Peter Wood and Michael Toscano are “narrow,” “mean-spirited” and trapped in the culture war. According to Mansfield, “Peter Wood and Michael Toscano in their report have understood Bowdoin better than Bowdoin understands itself.”

They disagree about the value of critiquing the "politicized" contemporary classroom. According to Franco, “The obvious problem with [Mansfield’s and NAS’s] critique of the politicization of higher education is that it is, well, highly politicized.” According to Mansfield, “the defense of a non-political classroom is indeed political but in the higher, nobler sense.”

They agree that the report identifies real problems to be solved. According to Franco, Bowdoin suffers from “the specialization and fragmentation of college curricula; the need for a more thoughtful and robust set of general education requirements; the excessive number of courses devoted to race, gender, and sexuality.” According to Mansfield, Bowdoin and Harvard suffer from a “willingness to…sacrifice their standards of excellence and their practices of free discussion to serve the policies of political correctness.”

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