Phi Beta Cons

Tom Klingenstein’s ‘A Golf Story’

In the latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books, Tom Klingenstein has an excellent essay, titled “A Golf Story.” 

It seems that Tom played a round of golf last year with Barry Mills, the president of Bowdoin College, and had a brief back-and-forth about liberal schools’ penchant for racial diversity and distaste for intellectual diversity. Mills then mischaracterized that back-and-forth in his convocation address a few weeks later. Tom’s essay briefly sets the record straight on that but then proceeds with a thoughtful discussion of the issues raised by and lessons learned from the exchange. 

As Tom says, Mills turns him into a “Bowdoin-hating boor who wants to return to the segregated days of Jim Crow.” And, what’s worse, he accuses Tom of making the boorish comments during Mills’s backswing — and not once but twice! Mills is lucky that Tom didn’t sue him for slander.

Tom notes that Mills’s address also conceded that Bowdoin is “in the main” liberal: Well, Tom finds out that the faculty is around 4 percent Republican, so this is a bit of an understatement, to put it charitably. And the address concludes with a ringing defense of “a Bowdoin education,” which is “at the heart of this nation’s democratic traditions and central to our democratic future.” But those traditions are, Tom points out, defined for Mills not by The Federalist or Abraham Lincoln, but by Martha Nussbaum, whose views Tom then proceeds briefly to dissect — along with the school’s race-class-gender curriculum. The essay ends with a discussion of why Mills and his colleagues in academia need “to take seriously their goal of increasing the diversity of views on campus.”

All in all, very nicely done and well worth reading.

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