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The Seriousness of the Teaching Problem

Reformers at Dartmouth—none more passionate than petition Trustee candidate Professor Stephen Smith—insist that Dartmouth rededicate itself to its great undergraduate tradition. Not to do so, they say, would be to allow a slow slipslide into the sort of impersonal research university Dartmouth was never meant to be. Larger classes, waitlists, famous professors who are terrible teachers, and more labor being taken up by graduate students.

A cabal of wealthy Dartmouth alumni—who collectively donate a lot of money, but not as much as the ‘broad middle,’ were it not largely alienated, would be able to donate—desire Dartmouth to compete directly with the likes of Harvard.

There are two points to observe about this. The first is that they are normatively wrong. Students and alumni do not want such a transformation, see the signs of it occuring, and reject it.

The other point is that Dartmouth, transformed, would simply not be able to compete with the Harvards of the world. Dartmouth’s attractiveness comes from the fact that it is a small College. It would lose most of its sheen were the transformists to have their way.

Further to all of this, please read this New York Times article about Harvard, headlined “Harvard Task Force Calls for New Focus on Teaching and Not Just Research.” And keep in mind that a powerful group of alumni and administrators want to move Dartmouth closer to the failed Harvard model—just because, like so much in the foolish academy, Harvard is doing it. The only thing stopping them? Your vote.


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