Higher Education Has Become A Place Of Conformity, Not Diversity
Ruth Wisse writes in the Wall Street Journal today that while America’s universities are concerned with racial/gender/sexual diversity, often to the point of absurdity, there is little concern for diversity of thought.
Nowadays, the pressure for conformism comes more from the faculty, which tips Democratic like the Titanic in its final throes. Programs that once upheld the value if not the practice of intellectual diversity tend to function more like unions, trying to keep their membership in line. Some professors make a habit of insulting Republican candidates and conservative ideas with the smirking assurance of talk-show hosts, unaware that their laugh lines reap from some students the contempt that they sow.
The increased political conformism at universities may be traced in part to the redefinition of diversity that accompanied the introduction of group preferences, aka “affirmative action.” Schools instituting this policy never acknowledged that it conflicted with competing commitments to equal consideration “irrespective of race, religion, or gender,” or that at least half the country questioned its wisdom.
In part the policy has become a joke, with claimants to 1/32nd Cherokee heritage gaining preferential treatment as minority hires. What is not a joke is that the meaning of “diversity” has shifted from the intellectual to the racial-ethnic sphere, foreclosing discussion of certain subjects like affirmative action, gender differences and everything considered politically incorrect.
Thus, the current Guide to the First Year at Harvard alerts incoming students to orientation programs in diversity designed to build connections within and across “nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, physical ability, and religion.” Characteristically and tellingly absent from the list is political or intellectual diversity.
Even here in North Dakota I hear from students, attracted to this blog by my criticisms of higher education, who say that professors and administrators they interact with routinely impose their political views on students while suffering very little in the way of dissent. It’s not an overt thing, no student would be directly punished for taking a counter position to a faculty member or administrator, but it is made clear that divergence in thought isn’t welcome.
Perhaps if our universities were a bit less concerned with things like skin color and sexual orientation, and a bit more concerned with diversity of thought, our students would be better served.Tags: free speech, higher education