The Bowdoin Project: What does the NAS report teach?
In many respects, the NAS report “What Does Bowdoin Teach?” is not news. Few, if any, would dispute that there is a liberal bias on campus and that our community celebrates and privileges certain views over others. Peter Wood and Michael Toscano explore the College’s politics in part by labeling concepts such as “sustainability,” “multiculturalism,” and “global citizenship” as dirty words and phrases, ideas that do injustice to what the report calls “the American miracle.” Clearly, there are fundamental differences of opinion between the writers of the report and Bowdoin’s educational mission, but to ignore the report because it is predictable or contrary to our own beliefs is to confirm the report’s central finding: that Bowdoin is a close-minded, partisan place.
The report reads like a plea to the good old “sons of Bowdoin,” whom perhaps the writers hope will keep President Mills’ phone ringing off the hook for the foreseeable future. Yet it is true that both alumni and students have the responsibility to consider how—and what—Bowdoin is teaching.
I doubt anyone would argue that nothing about Bowdoin should be changed. The report should be considered not only to test the very critical thinking skills brought into question, but also because, frankly, it contains some useful ideas. For one, I have often been disappointed by the lack of survey courses in the curriculum, and in some way, Bowdoin has limited my ability to explore new disciplines by not offering easier access.