November 14th 2009

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Why Australians should oppose a human rights charter

CANBERRA OBSERVED: The Rudd Government's asylum-seeker dilemma

EDITORIAL: Emissions trading scheme in trouble

CLIMATE CHANGE: Rudd's ETS will hit country towns hardest

ECONOMICS: Rising interest rates create speculative bubble

SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Will SA be the first state to legalise euthanasia?

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Australia's crude Fiji sanctions policy backfires

BRAZIL: Lula's infatuation with tyrants and mass-murderers

OVERSEAS AID: Exporting death in our overseas 'aid'

ASIA: Taiwan's modified UN bid prospects rated as 'good'

EDUCATION: A destructive doctrine called 'diversity'

SCIENCE: Can computer games harm children's brains?

OPINION: Why I lost faith in the Left

Australian aid to China (letter)

Rags-to-riches story (letter)

Kokoda and Japan (letter)

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Western nations must prepare for cyber attacks; The tyranny of unelected 'experts'; School reform that works.

BOOK REVIEW: OUT FROM UNDER: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting, by Dawn Stefanowicz

BOOK REVIEW: THE ART OF WAR: Great Commanders of the Ancient, Medieval and Modern World, Andrew Roberts

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A destructive doctrine called 'diversity'

by Paul Gottfried

News Weekly, November 14, 2009
Last month our faculty at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania, voted to endorse (and presumably to implement) a 19-page document titled Embracing Inclusive Excellence: A Five-Year Plan for Strengthening Campus Diversity. The plan passed by a margin of five to one, although nothing would suggest that most of those who voted for it ever read the text.

The expressions of endorsement from its authors and its other advocates were mostly anecdotal. Statements of support included these observations: "My black students and advisees show courage by coming to class" and "the blacks where I live in Philadelphia look as if they've no hope left".

When the committee's head was asked why no critics of the document were appointed to his group, his candid answer was "they'd have pulled in the reins".

A much younger colleague of mine, who is publishing a book with Johns Hopkins Press on diversity policies on college campuses, was not permitted to serve on this committee. Neither was I, although my book on multicultural practices here and in Europe has been translated into 10 languages, most recently Romanian.

Some of the assertions in the document made my head spin. Claims that Jews, Muslims, and Hindus on our campus are feeling the brunt of white Christian insensitivity are never documented. In fact, there is no evidence of prejudice being vented against any of the allegedly victimised groups; nor would the lack of interest in Christianity among my nominally Christian students indicate that they're full of religious rage against non-Christian students. Those non-Christians who were interviewed about "prejudice" on campus were asked if they noticed others "glancing" at them. The impression conveyed is that they were in fact being stared at.

Moreover, the solution that the college is supposed to embrace, in order to deal with outbursts of prejudice against the largely absent Jews, Muslims and Hindus, seems to have nothing to do with the evils cited. We are supposed to work harder to recruit and retain "historically underrepresented minorities", a term that, as best I can figure out, refers to inner-city blacks.

The students and faculty who engage in this enterprise will be showing "deep critical intelligence", as opposed to the ordinary kind of thinking that students need to learn calculus or ancient Greek.

Needless to say, I'd be delighted if all of my students displayed enough smarts to do serious college work. We'll leave the "deep" stuff to those who specialise in murky rhetoric.

But the story goes on! Once the obligatory outpouring of good will is under way, "deep critical intelligence" will lead to "engagement" between white students and the members of minority groups drawn from urban areas.

Presumably all diversitarians will come to appreciate each other's differentness, although there is not a shred of evidence that would justify this conclusion.

My colleague, who has done considerable research on diversity policies at UCLA [the University of California, Los Angeles] and the University of Michigan, stresses these policies often yield unpleasant consequences. Members of the educationally and socially diverse groups who are brought together have little in common and tend to stay away from each other. Where this is not the case, it is only because students, albeit from different ethnic backgrounds, are culturally similar and manifest comparable learning skills.

One might also ask whether our college would be willing to put additional funds into remedial education, to bring up to speed those they intend to recruit. Well-prepared and gifted minority students have more promising educational options elsewhere.

Most of my colleagues had no desire to discuss any of these problems. They were also averse to making changes on the document under consideration for the sake of factual accuracy. They just yearned to endorse it. Although the college administration clearly wanted to pass a diversity plan, the president, who was at the meeting, showed concern about the quality of the document.

But most of the faculty members had no such interest. They were too busy salivating over the word "diversity" on the title page and vying with each other in their manifestations of political correctness. Some may have been trying to wangle a pay raise or a promotion, but I doubt that this explains the behaviour of most of the faculty.

No pressure was put on them to support the plan; what is more, the president was willing to integrate dissenting opinions into what was sent to the board. It was the faculty, not the president, who behaved with a degree of ideological zeal that I've rarely encountered. What they voted for, without much evidence of critical thought, will affect their classroom assignments; and it will require them to attend training classes in affirmative action.

Their impatience with factually-grounded objections and the way some of them looked suspiciously at dissenters took me aback. After this gathering the last thing I'd attribute to my colleagues is a capacity for reasoned discourse, a quality that I once associated with college teaching.

One week after the events described in this commentary were published in the Lancaster Newspapers (October 4), the Elizabethtown College Student Senate voted overwhelmingly against the diversity plan that had been passed by the faculty and supported by the administration. The student vote was achieved in the face of organised bullying by faculty members and administrators who were sent by the president to make sure the students voted the right way.

Despite the name-calling engaged in by one social work professor in particular, the students were - from all evidence - not intimidated. They showed up the faculty and provost by asking them to define the "social justice" that they accused the student opposition of lacking. Several students scolded the provost for using statistically invalid measurements to arrive at the unfounded judgement that the college was deeply bigoted.

After this embarrassing incident, the president sent his letter of endorsement to the trustees, noting that the "students had reviewed the plan". Needless to say, the report did not mention what the "review" consisted of.

Professor Paul E. Gottfried, of the Humanities Department at Pennsylvania's Elizabethtown College, is the author of several books, including Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt (2002), The Strange Death of Marxism (2005), and, more recently, Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers (2009).

POSTSCRIPT: Islands of totalitarianism
- by Peter Wood

Far from being little utopias, liberal arts colleges in the grips of diversity are islands of totalitarianism in the ocean of a free society. ...

The diversiphile utopians extol the goal of all people learning peacefully from each other, but pursue policies of segregation, racial exclusion, and hair-trigger sensitivity to slights.

What the members of the "utopian" community really learn is to ache with resentment towards each other while repressing any open expression of their views. ...

So is the campus utopia of diversity really preparation for "life"? To the contrary, it produces narrow-minded, ill-educated people full of self-conceit about their superior insight into a society they have lost touch with.

It takes many of the graduates years to get re-grounded in reality and to begin to respect the good sense and decent values of their countrymen and to give up the insipid illusion that, as "liberally educated" people, they know better.

Peter Wood is associate professor of anthropology at Boston University and the author of Diversity: The Invention of a Concept (Encounter Books, 2003). The above piece is an extract from his article, "Academics flee from diversity debate",, March 11, 2003.

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