Linda Chavez
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Liberal education once stood for something grand and good: the study of the arts, humanities and sciences with the aim of improving the mind through the acquisition of knowledge and the pursuit of truth. But some of America's most elite colleges and universities have all but abandoned this goal. Instead, many selective schools favor the faddish, the politically correct and the dogmatic, all the while proclaiming their devotion to promoting "critical thinking" and tolerance.

Conservatives have complained of this for decades, with little effect. A slew of books over the past 25 years have exposed what goes on in the ivory towers, from Allan Bloom's treatise "The Closing of the American Mind" to Dinesh D'Souza's polemic "Illiberal Education." But none had provided a careful, in-depth study of a single school until the National Association of Scholars (NAS) this week released its 360-page report "What Does Bowdoin Teach?" (www.nas.org/projects/the_bowdoin_project).

Bowdoin College is a small private "liberal arts" school in Brunswick, Maine. Its admissions standards are demanding. Bowdoin accepts fewer than one in five who apply (though the school admits about a third of black and other "underrepresented" applicants to satisfy its commitment to "diversity"). The cost of tuition, room, board and fees for the school's roughly 1,800 students is hefty: $56,128 for the 2012-13 academic year, a sum that exceeds the annual income for half of all American households.

The school was founded in 1802 and boasts a distinguished cast of graduates, including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and U.S. President Franklin Pierce. But as the report's authors, Peter Wood and Michael Toscano, demonstrate, Bowdoin is not the school it once was. Nor does it provide the education, I venture, that most parents who send their children there believe they are getting, nor one most donors to the school's nearly $1 billion endowment would approve.

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Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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