Conformity, Partisanship Dominate Elite College, Say Scholars

Conformity, Partisanship Dominate Elite College, Say Scholars

New York, NY (April 3, 2013)—The National Association of Scholars today released What Does Bowdoin Teach? The 360-page meticulously-detailed study treats Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine as an example of what happens when liberal arts education is dominated by political partisanship. Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett said, “The report is perhaps the most deep and specific to date on how progressive ideology has altered the character of American higher education.”

“Elite colleges market themselves as devoted to intellectual and personal freedom,” said Peter Wood, principal author of the study. “But colleges like Bowdoin pressure students to conform to a narrow spectrum of ideas, opinions, and behaviors.” 

Bowdoin is ranked sixth in the nation among liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report. Said Wood, “We picked Bowdoin because of its outstanding reputation. We wanted to find out if the reality matched.” He added, “It doesn’t. Bowdoin has many smart students and excellent faculty members, but it huddles them into a single view on issue after issue.” 

The report cites the college’s positions on race, gender, gay marriage, and climate change as examples of Bowdoin’s doctrinaire approaches to social and political issues. William Bennett observed that the report’s authors “have painstakingly and truthfully used Bowdoin College as an example of how many liberal arts colleges are failing their students. Bowdoin illustrates the intellectual and moral deficit of the American academy.”

“The result,” said Wood, “is a very impoverished version of a liberal education. Bowdoin students—indeed students at all our top liberal arts colleges—are shortchanged. They deserve better.”  The study was funded by philanthropist Thomas Klingenstein who wanted to test the college’s claims that it fair-mindedly represented all points of view. 

NAS advocates for excellence in higher education by encouraging commitment to high intellectual standards, individual merit, institutional integrity, good governance, and sound public policy. To learn more about NAS, visit

Contact Peter Wood, President, National Association of Scholars: (917) 551-6771; [email protected]

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