On Saturday, 27 October, the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy invited Robert Paquette to Raleigh, North Carolina, to speak about the AHI on a panel devoted to the promise and peril of center-building.
His talk, “The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of the Alexander Hamilton Center: A Parable,” explained the demise of the center at Hamilton College by leading the audience, step by step, through an imaginary parallel scenario involving a programmatic initiative by a left-wing professor at an Ivy League university.
The trail of tears for the center included a broken agreement, public and private dissembling and mendacity by college officials, and unprecedented intrusiveness by board members. He agreed with Dartmouth trustee Todd Zywicki who cautioned attendants not to see trustees as the saviours of higher learning in the campus culture wars. Most trustees spend little time on campus and are spoon fed sanitized information by academic bureaucrats of limited ability, vision, and leadership skills. Various panelists addressed the degradation of of the very ethos of liberal arts colleges under pressure from campus activists and the “quick-fix” of the open curriculum. Paquette warned of the growing corporatization of educational life: thickening layers of bureaucracy and burgeoning public relations departments committed more to information management and spin than to the pursuit of truth. Particularly serious problems ensue, he concluded, when trustees drink too deeply of the beverage produced by their own propaganda machine. Click here for details.
On 29 October Primary Source, a non-profit institution devoted to advancing education in the humanities, invited Paquette to speak to a gathering in Watertown, Massachusetts, of about fifty secondary school teachers. While discussing in two sessions how to teach the subject of slavery in high-school classrooms, he introduced attendants to the AHI and its website, which offers perhaps the most extensive list of links to primary sources in American history of any website in the country. Paquette distributed syllabi of an introductory course that he had pioneered at Hamilton College almost two decades ago on the history of the Atlantic world during the era of the slave trade.