Groupthink Causes Groupstink

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The Golf Shot Heard Round the Academic World

It sounds like the setup for a bad joke: What did the Wall Street type say to the college president on the golf course? Well, we don’t know exactly—but it has launched a saga with weighty implications for American intellectual and civic life.

Here’s what we do know: One day in the summer of 2010, Barry Mills, the president of Bowdoin College, a respected liberal-arts school in Brunswick, Maine, met investor and philanthropist Thomas Klingenstein for a round of golf about an hour north of campus. College presidents spend many of their waking hours talking to potential donors. In this case, the two men spoke about college life—especially “diversity”—and the conversation made such an impression on President Mills that he cited it weeks later in his convocation address to Bowdoin’s freshman class. That’s where the dispute begins.

In his address, President Mills described the golf outing and said he had been interrupted in the middle of a swing by a fellow golfer’s announcement: “I would never support Bowdoin—you are a ridiculous liberal school that brings all the wrong students to campus for all the wrong reasons,” said the other golfer, in Mr. Mills’s telling. During Mr. Mills’s next swing, he recalled, the man blasted Bowdoin’s “misplaced and misguided diversity efforts.” At the end of the round, the college president told the students, “I walked off the course in despair.”

Word of the speech soon got to Mr. Klingenstein. Even though he hadn’t been named in the Mills account, Mr. Klingenstein took to the pages of the Claremont Review of Books to call it nonsense: “He didn’t like my views, so he turned me into a backswing interrupting, Bowdoin-hating boor who wants to return to the segregated days of Jim Crow.”

The real story, wrote Mr. Klingenstein, was that “I explained my disapproval of ‘diversity’ as it generally has been implemented on college campuses: too much celebration of racial and ethnic difference,” coupled with “not enough celebration of our common American identity.”

For this, wrote Mr. Klingenstein, Bowdoin’s president insinuated that he was a racist. And President Mills did so, moreover, in an address that purported to stress the need for respecting the opinions of others across the political spectrum. “We are, in the main, a place of liberal political persuasion,” he told the students, but “we must be willing to entertain diverse perspectives throughout our community. . . . Diversity of ideas at all levels of the college is crucial for our credibility and for our educational mission.” Wrote Mr. Klingenstein: “Would it be uncharitable to suggest that, in a speech calling for more sensitivity to conservative views, he might have shown some?”

After the essay appeared, President Mills stood by his version of events. A few months later, Mr. Klingenstein decided to do something surprising: He commissioned researchers to examine Bowdoin’s commitment to intellectual diversity, rigorous academics and civic identity. This week, some 18 months and hundreds of pages of documentation later, the project is complete. Its picture of Bowdoin isn’t pretty.

Funded by Mr. Klingenstein, researchers from the National Association of Scholars studied speeches by Bowdoin presidents and deans, formal statements of the college’s principles, official faculty reports and notes of faculty meetings, academic course lists and syllabi, books and articles by professors, the archive of the Bowdoin Orient newspaper and more. They analyzed the school’s history back to its founding in 1794, focusing on the past 45 years—during which, they argue, Bowdoin’s character changed dramatically for the worse.

Published Wednesday, the report demonstrates how Bowdoin has become an intellectual monoculture dedicated above all to identity politics.


Methinks that Mr. Mills needs to work on his people skills. He’s obviously not very good a schmoozing donors.

The real problem in modern academia isn’t just the lack of real-world experience within their ivory towers, it’s also the lack of diversity of opinion. Universities are supposed to be places where ideas can be explored and debated, not indoctrination centers for our kids.

If you are not paying due consideration to differing points of view then you ain’t engaged in critical thinking. That’s why our courts have jury instructions that tell the jurors they must listen to ALL the evidence and hear ALL the arguments before reaching an opinion. When you close your mind to other facts and opinions you aren’t thinking, you are executing a program.


About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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40 Responses to Groupthink Causes Groupstink

  1. myiq2xu says:

    I would feel a lot better about our institutions of higher learning if students were required to study opposing theories by teachers who advocate those theories. In economics there are two main schools of thought. Imagine if kids had to study and pass a course on each one.

  2. fif says:

    And Obama is the perfect embodiment of an elite insular intolerant culture that rejects, ridicules and oppresses other points of view with their sanctimonious self-serving superiority. Pure projection – and as such, they can’t see it. On Facebook today, someone liberal was criticizing Obama’s budget, and another person posted the predictable indoctrinated defense: “It’s the evil Republicans! He can’t help it- he has to compromise because of their insane extremism.” A perfect parrot for “enlightened” Group Think.

    • myiq2xu says:

      With that mindset you can’t negotiate or compromise. It’s like the Pope and some top Imam trying to iron out doctrinal differences between Christianity and Islam.

      They both believe they represent the One True Religion.

  3. 49erDweet (D) says:

    Instead of using critical thinking and problem solving skills he may or may not have learned at Hahvaad, backtrack is stuck forever in debate mode. He’s still only an underclassperson.

  4. HELENK says:

    the Peter Principle is alive and well and thriving today in this country.
    information insulation has corrupted many schools

  5. DeniseVB says:

    Every now and then an article catches my attention about high school kids being bullied …. by teachers …. for conservative views on a current event topic. I figure by the time they get to college, they’ve lost the spirit to question authority.

    • myiq2xu says:

      The “good” students have learned to memorize and regurgitate what the teacher wants to hear.

    • yttik says:

      Never mind high school, I think it starts in first grade. By middle school you’ve learned that if you want good grades, you better regurgitate what you’ve been fed. For an A+, be sure to thank your teacher for opening your eyes to the One True Way.

      • Somebody says:

        Sad but true yttik

      • leslie says:

        It starts in daycare. Last Sunday, my 2yo grand daughter picked up a toilet plunger from my neighbor’s back porch (don’t ask me what it was doing there, I don’t know.) and began stomping around the porches saying “Barack Obama, Barack Obama, long live Barack Obama”. I was quietly not amused, my DIL was embarrassed – even though she is an obot, and my daughter laughed out loud. I know it didn’t come from the baby’s house. It came from daycare.

  6. myiq2xu says:

    Will Health Care Be Sleeper Issue Of 2014?

    Washington is currently consumed with guns and immigration, but come 2014 it’s possible that health care will be the more all-consuming issue, and that has lots of Democrats very worried.

    After five years of demagoguery, political spin and hyperbole on both sides of the debate, the Affordable Care Act is finally set to go into effect January 1, 2014. Open enrollment begins this October.

    Already, however, some health industry groups argue that many Americans should expect to see their premiums rise.

    Last week, the Society of Actuaries released a study that predicted that “the overwhelming majority” of those who purchase health care directly on the individual health market “will see double-digit increases.”

    “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”

    • t says:

      More, they have screwed a sleeping pooch ;-). Buh-bye Democrats. I just hope their actions don’t take me into the abyss with them….

  7. votermom says:

    I really really want (and keep asking around for) a list of universities that DON’T indoctrinate kids.
    Any suggestions?

    • Start at a community college. There are still the same problems with liberal indoctrination, but at least the student body is composed of mostly poor and working class students, who I have found hold overwhelmingly conservative points of view. And they resist the indoctrination.

      We had a discussion in my classrooms a few weeks ago about a certain professor in my department who forces her students to write all their cause and effect essays on climate change, and adopt the pro attitude. She will not allow other topics and will not allow dissent. Her theory is if she forces students to look at only one side, she will force them to choose the pro side. That is not the case. Our students, like many people across the country, are quite skeptical of CC and see it as a power grab by powerful elites. My students were flabbergasted that the professor adopted this practice and were very grateful to be in a classroom where they were allowed to discuss their point of view and express doubts.

      That said, more people of diverse opinions need to step up to the teaching plate. Nothing will change as long as conservatives and moderates refuse to even engage these institutions, and instead just rely on criticism. If people truly want change, they have to get in there and take risks, and get their hands dirty.

      • votermom says:

        Are there no major / name colleges that still educate rather than indoctrinate?

        • elliesmom says:

          Most engineering schools are immune from indoctrination. It’s kind of hard to put a bias on D = V x T or PV =nrt. The “liberal arts” professors aren’t very influential in that environment, and they’re used to students who demand proof of everything.

        • Somebody says:

          I don’t think so votermom, if they’re a major player they are deep into the indoctrination……otherwise they’d never make it to the majors.

        • yttik says:

          I think the answer is no, votermom. I know a couple of atheist, radical liberal kids, who are actually attending the Catholic university because they crave diversity of opinion and less indoctrination.

        • DandyTiger says:

          I agree with elliesmom. I spent my college years in math, engineering, and science. While I had to take the usual core requirements outside of those areas, I don’t remember much in the way of indoctrination. Certainly a lot of students and faculty were liberal, as was I, but it just wasn’t the environment for it. If however you’re into the social sciences, I suspect you will get it non stop.

          I would imagine some schools are more moderate or conservative than others though. For example, big state universities in red states might not be as extreme as those in blue states. That’s not 100%, but I bet there’s a correlation. And some schools in the west can be more moderate than others. For example, there’s a world of difference in political leanings between Stanford and UC Berkeley.

        • DandyTiger says:

          Hard to politicize Maxwell:

      • Somebody says:

        Lola you are so right, people need to step up to the plate at all levels of our educational system. Standing on the outside lobbing criticism is not the way to effect change.

        Also, at least on a University level the professors are expected to do research and write papers, books, etc. Those become feathers in the University’s cap. Most of those publications and grantors are liberal…..so conservatives and moderates also need to put their money where their mouth is.

  8. Somebody says:

    It’s very true about colleges and universities although not all of them are like that.

    My daughter is in graduate school at a top tier university and they like to crow about their diversity, which she thinks is laughable. Oh sure they checked the skin color and gender boxes, but the entire campus is nothing but indoctrination and group think. She learned that the hard way early on, but is stubborn and won’t back down or compromise her principles.

    Years ago she attended college for a year and then quit…..she was in love and going to get married. When she decided to return to finish her bachelor’s degree she went to a local college which had been a community college, but had just recently become a four year school. In academic circles it is considered “inferior”, it has yet to prove itself and most likely never will meet with the approval of the ivory towers. Many of the students and professors at the University she’s at now are appalled someone from such an inferior school was allowed in; nevermind her record or the fact that she’s running circles around those other students.**Personal brag here, she’s finishing in half the time because she doubled up on classes and has maintained a 4.0….OK brag over**

    Since she’s been at the University she’s had a couple of opportunities to enlighten them as to her experiences at said college which is looked upon as inferior. She has shocked professors with tales of how issues were discussed and debated from different points of views. In fact if nobody took a different view her professors would argue opposing viewpoints, they encouraged discussion and debate. Her classes at this college were very diverse not only in skin color but in viewpoints, cultures and age, far more diverse than this university. They did cover the opposing theories in economics at the little college that could, btw……and in science they discussed and debated global warming based on fact not hype…….shocking I know.

    She swears to us the classes were far more engaging and the standards tougher at the inferior little college that could. She also says the open dialouge and true diversity at the inferior little college that could prepared her for the real world a lot more than the ivory tower insitution where she is now.

    Perhaps the little college that could should give Mr. Klingenstein a call. Surely he has a house in Florida too and we have lots of golf courses!

  9. yttik says:

    I’ve really come to hate the word “diversity” because some time ago it started meaning anything but. The word “tolerance” should also be put to rest.

    “Diversity” to my elite overlords really just means a token bit of the exotic, as in having an accent or eating Indian food. It has nothing to do with gender, race, and certainly not with the ability to think for yourself. Diversity means letting your Hispanic maid cook beans for you or claiming that you know somebody from India.

    LOL, if I sound bitter, it’s probably because I am.

    • DandyTiger says:

      We’re all bitter clingers here. 🙂

    • t says:

      Two other words I hate:
      “haters”
      “organic” (meaning a way of coming to a particular understanding, etc, not the food meaning.).

      Awful words.

      • driguana says:

        There probably a whole list of words that we should try not to use or at least use differently from now on. I posted something earlier in the day and used the word “tolerance” and later thought what a wimpy word that has come to be. I was trying to champion the need for respectfulness which I guess is really different than tolerance. Still and all, it’s all babbling at this point but I appreciate your point yttik.

    • westcoaster says:

      another word is “reuse”, where you turn a church into a house or gut an historic building and use the windows for a greenhouse.

  10. Completely OT- saw this and thought Dandy would get a kick out of it.

  11. myiq2xu says:

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