As sympathetic as I am to the spirit of the editorial in the latest issue of Scattershot, I am more skeptic than supporter. Where are the specifics? What, precisely, would the editors like the College or the students or the alumni to do differently?

They note:

But none of this [renewed seriousness of political discourse] has descended into the Purple Valley, which remains apathetic, fundamentally self-regarding and downright dismissive of whatever goes on outside.

And so it has always been. Many residents of the Purple Valley care a great deal about the outside world. Many don’t. If the editors think that the average Williams students should spend more time reading the New York Times and less playing intramural soccer, then they should say so clearly. But this, I guess, is not their main point.

Sept. 11 highlighted the prevalence of a culture of utopianism that views the defense of imperfect democracy as more problematic than the unambiguous denunciation of aggression by illiberal extremists. This culture enjoys hegemony over the elite American campus, and Williams is no exception.

True today, true 20 years ago, probably true always.

As a result, Williams students seem not only unengaged-as-usual, but more fundamentally disconnected from the society and culture to which we belong. Whether Greater America has it right is beside the point; the problem is we have little exposure to those perspectives and no context in which to make such judgments. No matter how much better the view from the Ivory Tower, the picture is not complete without insight into the goings-on directly below. The question we pose is this: Is the culture of group-think which pervades our campus compatible with a liberal arts education that will prepare us for the diverse experiences we will soon encounter?

Answer: No. At least that is how I see things, speaking from “below.” Williams has plenty of wonderful, smart, engaged, outspoken liberal professors. This is a marvelous thing. Williams has almost no outspoken conservative professors (smart or otherwise). For example, why is there no Williams professor taking the opposite side from Professor Wood on the issue of the war in Iraq?

Without engaged representatives from all parts of the ideological spectrum, group-think is the inevitable result. The question then becomes: What do the editors of Scattershot propose to do about it?

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