A Frustrating Performance

by Lynn Vavreck | 10/11/00 5:00am

To the Editor:

As a woman, as a woman with a graduate degree, as a professional who is keenly interested in politics, I am compelled to share my frustration with Laura Ingraham's ('85) performance at Dartmouth on Monday. I applaud the Rockefeller Center for bringing to campus a presumably smart, young woman with conservative political beliefs, but I cannot applaud Ingraham's commentary about the upcoming presidential election nor the way she squandered her opportunity to present herself as a role model to young women students at Dartmouth.

As a faculty member here, I strive to convey to students the importance of objective analysis, the right role for emotion and personal beliefs in constructing arguments and the insights one can gain about contemporary issues from a solid understanding of history. I was saddened as Ingraham presented her emotional and biased assessment of the 2000 presidential election. I was also disheartened by her flip and sarcastic rendering of what it was like to be the editor of The Dartmouth Review and to be sued by a faculty member. These are serious issues about which students should be encouraged to think seriously.

But what upset me the most about Ingraham's visit to my class was the way she leveraged her magnetic (the students have described her this way to me) and attractive self-presentation to gain and keep students' attention. I do not begrudge her enthusiasm for politics, her stylish appearance, or her trendy and witty rapport with students -- I do not find those things distasteful. However, to trade on that and not use her intelligence and analytical skills simultaneously, to waste the opportunity she had to teach students something meaningful about politics (instead of telling personal anecdotes) -- it not only was a shame pedagogically, it was a disappointment for all the women out there who hope to find a young, trendy, magnetic role model who also values and takes her intellectual capacity seriously.

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