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Frank Gado '58, Kim and Dartmouth University


VALLEY NEWS厄AY, MAY 6, 2012
WITHER THE LIBERAL ARTS AT DARTMOUTH

To the editor:

Chris Fleisher's article (VN, April 20) pairing the annunciation of the Dartmouth presidential search committee's chairman and vice chairman with campus hopes for liberal arts in the school঵ture, presents an instructive contrast.

Besides calling attention to himself, President Jim Kimथvotion riveted on extending Dartmouth's commitment to public health. (To that end, he picked Allen Mulley, head of the search committee that had picked Kim, for a highly remunerative post directing the neoteric 㩥nce裂health care delivery.) The chairman of the new committee seeking Kim's replacement? Bill Helman, "a venture capitalist  with ties to the health care world ...who is also a Dartmouth-Hitchcock trustee and chairman of Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine Board of Overseers."

Helman's vice chairman? Diana Taylor, "former New York State Superintendent of Banks." Fleischer didnࡤd that she also holds a Master's degree from Columbia University in ...  now here's a surprise ... public health.

While President Kim continues drawing his magnificent salary, the interim president will be Provost Carol Folt, professor of biology who had been appointed Dean of Graduate Studies since 2001 who guided construction of the controversial new Life Sciences Building --patently designed for graduate instruction and research. According to Dartmouthࢯard chairman Stephen Mandel, Folt will "continue to lead the strategic planning process, which is a top priority for the Board." Although these strategic plans being gestated as a "top priority for the board⥭ain undisclosed, I doubt they will concern shifting 18th-century aesthetic paradigms, or persistence of Gnostic beliefs,  or the relationship between an emergent American literature and the nationथfinition.

American higher education is beset by many overwhelming problems, but the gravest for our elite traditional private colleges is the collapse of the liberal arts concept. Attention to comics and all manner of "graphic novels" has long since swamped study of Milton and Chaucer. Courses in such meretricious topics as the parallels between the mob as portrayed in "The Sopranos" and clandestine Sicilian societies have illustrated a curricular Gresham's Law by pushing out inquiry into the revolutionary thinking of Lorenzo Valla, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Cesare Beccaria.

Kim may have been the greatest mismatch with liberal arts education in the history of our traditional colleges. His disdain for the wellsprings of our culture  arises from such failure to comprehend their nature that, called upon to defend them as president of a putatively liberal arts school, he confused them with studio arts. And lumped them all together as the ॣial sauceġrtmouth as a Big Mac. Alas!

Unfortunately, and not just at Dartmouth, liberal arts colleges have become a souk in which each stall purveys whatever overpriced gewgaw will titillate the ignorant buyer. The realities of the world will not long support such folly.

Dartmouth's history gives it a great advantage should it choose to lead a revitalization, a refoundation, of liberal arts education, but those who now control the institution are neither disposed nor equipped to address that challenge. Fleischer reports Helman as saying that 衴 the next president will share with Kim is a high respect for health care. ... [He or she] would have to be someone who supports medical research and advancing health care."

Dartmouth, in short, will no longer be a liberal arts college with a med school; it will be a medical complex drawing its financial resources from a vestigial college with a pipeline to Wall Street. 

FRANK GADO
White River Junction, VT 

 


 Last Updated:  Friday July 06, 2012

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