Fourteen-Letter Words

by Michael A. Holmes | 5/1/98 5:00am

I am writing in response to Kenji Hosokawa's "The Harvardization of Dartmouth," which appeared in Tuesday's issue of The Dartmouth. It made me sick.

But before I start, let me get a few things straight.

I am not an authority on anything -- not the social scene at Dartmouth (I don't drink, and I have no friends), not the academic quality of Harvard (I've never been there, nor do I care to go) or even of Dartmouth (I'm only a freshman, and I don't know anything about anything here, really). I'm not a journalist. I'm apolitical. I'm an atheist.

As is probably already clear, I can't write anywhere near as well as Hosokawa can. I don't know who Hobbes, Durkheim or Nietzsche is. I can't use lots of big words, like "indoctrinated" or "insatiable," nor do I use sentences like: "If contemplation is disparaged by the very individuals whose ambitions tamed by philosophical reflection may do good to the world, it has no value." (By the way, if anybody knows what that means, could they blitz me?) Heck, I can't even arrange my thoughts into a coherent picture when I'm having a normal conversation, never mind when I'm trying to make people understand how, ... er, well, something or other I felt when I read that editorial.

So maybe my opinion means nothing, maybe it means something; maybe I'll be president someday, maybe I'll get shot in the street tomorrow because I look stupid. Eh.

I don't want Dartmouth to be "Harvardized." Don't get me wrong -- I don't hold a grudge against it because I didn't get in: I didn't even consider applying there. I didn't want to go to a school where, although the research programs are top-notch, the undergraduate teaching is less than stellar. I didn't want to "channel [my] entire intellectual energy into the advancement of the three 'master' sciences," despite the fact that all my life I've been tagged a "math-science person." I didn't want to go to a school where I could find all the people who are so smart they "do not need to be taught." I didn't want to go to a school that prides itself on the number of Phi Beta Kappa Society members it produces. Did you?

I'm not one-dimensional, nor do I care to be. I can't deny that, in all likelihood, I'm going to remain a "math-science person," majoring in physics and doing who-knows- what after college. But I want to know about Homer and Marx and philosophy and religion. I don't care if I'll never need it. In fact, I'm so timid that I wouldn't even make use of any knowledge I gained by striking up any sort of intelligent conversation. I hate intelligent conversation. It annoys me.

I'm smart -- sure, I got into Dartmouth and all, but I'm no genius. I need not just good, but outstanding undergraduate teaching. I need a professor that will make anthropology so fascinating that -- even if I'll never use it again -- I can enjoy it for one semester. I need a professor that is so dedicated to his students that he's willing to go out on any given clear night to observe stars, galaxies and the like with his pupils.

I need a professor who won't just throw assignments at his students so they can learn on their own (even if they are capable), but will leave his door open to answer any questions anybody might have about anything at all, no matter how unrelated to his field of expertise.

I don't want to make an impact on society. I don't want to try and change the world or make it a better place. I would like to get married, have a few kids and enjoy my life. Meet new people, visit new places -- the whole nine yards. I'd like to have lots of fun at college. That's as lofty as my goals get.

I don't want Dartmouth to be "Harvardized." I don't even know what Harvard's like. But if being "Harvardized" means shifting focus from stellar undergraduate teaching to the divine purpose of conducting research, I don't want it.

So publishing original research doesn't fascinate me. I enjoy learning things that I will never, ever need to know in life. I applaud every aspect of the arts and humanities curriculum here at Dartmouth -- especially the useless stuff. Am I exactly the kind of person that prevents Dartmouth from becoming the same institution Harvard is?

I apologize.