Writing to Change the World
"You get to be taught by the professors who actually write the textbooks!"
While it was certainly an attractive concept, frankly, it left me somewhat unimpressed. High-school-senior-me had just spent the last week being guided across the campuses of the nation's top universities, and while the concept of being orated material by the minds behind the textbooks themselves was certainly appealing, it was something that I had heard before. Standing there before Baker Tower, it certainly elucidated Dartmouth's academic prowess, if not their commitment to teaching, but how was it different from anywhere else I was looking at? What set Dartmouth apart?
The answer to that question resolved itself relatively soon into the tour; Dartmouth's small-college vibe and focus on undergraduate education made those people all the more accessible for students, and hence the teaching itself was tough to match. But flash-forward three years later, and sophomore-me had another revelation. After stumbling upon a list of books authored by Dartmouth faculty (which the library compiled and had ready to lend to students), I figured that I'd give one a read, in spite of my usual aversion to picking up books for pleasure. From academic texts to fiction, anthologies and best-sellers, it was a formidable list to narrow down. Though, having just had finished Macroeconomics, it caught my eye when the preview of Professor Charles Wheelan’s Naked Money listed my professor’s name in the foreword, and it became instantly became an irresistible choice.
The book made its goal clear right out of the gate: to explain money and monetary systems in a way that is accessible to the everyday reader, and in all truth, that deviated from my expectations; in an age where academic texts are frequently obfuscated with sophisticated jargon and labyrinthine sentence structures, it was refreshing to see such complex concepts elaborated so clearly.
This made me realize something incredibly revealing about Dartmouth’s culture, of which Professor Wheelan’s book was a testament: that while the College undeniably has an impressive reputation in the academic community, teaching and communicating those ideas are still paramount. Yes, our professors write the textbooks, but the real point is that Dartmouth encourages its students and faculty to write down their ideas in a way that is staggeringly different from the norm– just consider Dr. Seuss, or Peter Robinson, who drafted President Reagan’s Tear Down This Wall speech, both graduates of the College who were discouraged by advisors yet continued on to write down their ideas in a way that would come to change the world.
Altogether, that’s what I hope to learn from the College, and that’s why I can’t imagine being anywhere else.