Having taken the reins from my friend Bruce Sanborn earlier this year, Tom Klingenstein is the new chairman of the Claremont Institute. Tom’s essay “A golf story” is one of the highlights of the new double issue of the gala tenth anniversary number of the Claremont Review of Books.
In a convocation address that he gave at the start of the school year, Bowdoin College President Barry Mills called for more intellectual diversity on campus, though it was quite clear from a close reading of the speech that he was not particularly serious. And that is the essential point of Tom’s essay. Tom seeks to shame Mills into making good on his commitment to increase intellectual diversity.
Tom’s essay was inspired by Mills’s blind but unflattering reference to Tom in Mills’s speech. Tom’s essay reveals Mills to be something of a fabulist when it comes to the golf story with which he illustrated his speech. The conservative interlocutor of Mill’s speech is depicted none too subtly as a troglodyte and — what else? — a racist. As Tom points out, there seems to be some projection going on.
Tom’s essay has elicited good coverage on campus at the Bowdoin Orient. The Orient reporters sought out the powers-that-be for a comment on Klingenstein’s essay: “Mills told the Orient that he had seen the article, but declined to comment.” Mills is leaving the talking to Scott Hood, the college’s vice president for communications, who wrote in an email: “At Convocation in September, President Mills expressed his views on a number of subjects. Mr. Klingenstein has a different view.” I guess that’s one way to put it.
Is Mills’s call for intellectual diversity also a fabulation? Tom calls Mills’s bluff. Tom’s approach is to say: If you are really serious, President Mills, then you will do something — something specific and doable in short order (e.g., a conference, formation of a commission, a campus colloquium, or the like).
I have a modest proposal for President Mills. How about inviting Klingenstein to provide the counterpoint to your next fabulation? I think you might find that it would provide a wonderful education to your students on the benefits of diversity, properly understood.
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