Tuesday, November 11, 2014
The Failure of Diversity
I had an interesting conversation with a member of the admissions staff of a major university recently. I asked, had the university ever done an analysis of how well their students do, both while at college and after? After all, the admissions department makes many assumptions about what a successful freshman class should look like - are they good assumptions? How effective a job, in other words, was the admissions staff doing?
The short answer was no, they had never looked into it. More interestingly, it was clear it had never occurred to them. One would think, in a place like a university, filled with professors whose job it is to study things, that the first thing they would study would be, well, themselves.
One would think wrong. To my knowledge, no college or university has ever analyzed the success of their own students. In fact, it's the last thing they want to know. Which brings me to one of the principle reasons why: the pervasive cult of diversity, and its misunderstood effects.
If you talk to anyone on the board of a school at any level these days, you will hear about the staggering amount of time taken up at meetings about diversity efforts, often to the exclusion of other matters. Look at the literature the schools hand out; diversity is often featured before academics. But to what end? The theory behind diversity seems logical (and noble): students with differing backgrounds and perspectives come together and learn from each other, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
But that's not how it goes down, not at all. The whole effort gets derailed by diversity's evil twin, multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism's key tenet holds that all cultures, other than America's, are equally valid and should be celebrated. Leaving aside the fact that this is ridiculous, that some cultures are horrific, in practice this view leads to Balkanization. If my culture is better than yours, why should I join yours? I'll keep mine, thank you, especially since you keep telling me how awful yours is.
All you have to do is walk into the dining hall at most schools to see the result: the black table, the Asian table, etc. Then there are the cultural clubs, the ethnic studies classes, and so on. What good is diversity if no one is actually talking to each other?
Diversity, to schools, is checking a bunch of ethnic boxes. The admissions office checks them, and then pats themselves on the back. A job well done. But what about what comes after? They won't look, because they know, on some level, it's not working. They are bringing the kids together but then promoting a poisonous ideology that drives them apart. The end result? Diversity likely hurts more than it helps. But, hey, we don't know exactly, because no one will study it!
I have children in two different schools, and they are an interesting contrast. One is in full throes of the diversity fetish. The result is drawn lines and a cynical student body. Last year, the student body president, a black lesbian, was removed, reluctantly, from her post for mocking white students. There is bad will all around. Many students believed that the school, in a desperate bid to have both their first female and first LGBT president, rigged the election. I seriously doubt this, but the mere fact the students think this way shows you how polarized things have become.
My other child's school is quite different. On the surface, it looks the same, a broad ethnic palette. The headmaster is black, but you won't hear the word diversity much. Instead, he speaks of "inclusion," as in, we want to include everyone in what we have here. The school has a very strong culture, and students are expected to join it, not to spend four years in some sort of parallel existence. No, they are not expected to throw their cultural identities overboard, but rather to bring them to the party. The students get in and buy in. The whole becomes greater than the parts.
It is noteworthy that this same headmaster says, "I am an American African," placing "American" - that thing that unites us - first.
Unfortunately, most schools and universities resemble the first school far more than the second. They are diverse, but highly polarized. This means that assumptions about diversity's benefits are flawed, and that is something no one wants to hear.