According to the Dartmouth Review, Dartmouth’s president Jim Kim recently opined (quoting his father) that “you are not going to make it in this world if you study philosophy. . .you have to get a skill.” This comment hits home; both John Hinderaker and I were philosophy majors at Dartmouth.
One can debate whether we have “made it in this world,” but if we haven’t, our study of philosophy isn’t to blame. Such study doesn’t preclude one from having a successful career outside of philosophy. Alternatively, one might become a philosophy professor and then rise to the position of college president, Jim Kim’s present station in life. Finally, I think it’s quite respectable to devote one’s life to studying philosophy and not worry about “making it.”
I think we should give Kim the benefit of the doubt and assume that his comments about studying philosophy were light-hearted. It just doesn’t make sense that a college president would speak in earnest against studying philosophy.
But, again according to the Review, Kim went on to say that you can “smell” the qualities of true luminaries, citing his “privilege in being around fantastic leaders,” namely Dartmouth alums Ed Haldeman (CEO of Freddie Mac) and Jeff Immelt (CEO of GE). Haldeman and Immelt happen to be on Dartmouth’s board of trustees; Haldeman in fact heads it [note; no longer — Steve Mandel was elected to replace him at the last board meeting]
I suppose there’s nothing too wrong with sucking up to one’s board, but in the statement cited above and others I’ve heard or read, Kim seems to be downright worshipful of corporate success (along with access to, and participation in, Democratic presidential administrations). Such success is nothing to sneeze at, I’ll grant. But I agree with the Review’s assessment that Kim’s comments “border on the embarrassing.”
I think one can “smell” the qualities of someone devoted to liberal arts education, rather than self-promotion and clubbiness. I’d like to be getting more of that scent from President Kim.
SCOTT adds: The Washington Post has posted the video of President Kim’s reflections on leadership (below).
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