The Value of “Diversity”

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (paid registration needed to access text–sorry) reports on a new study that casts doubt upon “academic research that asserts the educational benefits of diversity.” According to this new study, “students of all ethnic backgrounds feel that as minority enrollment grows, the quality of their education diminishes and incidents of discrimination increase.” If “diversity” doesn’t improve the quality of education, then one of the main arguments for affirmative action has been refuted. Or so the study suggests. But (as Jerry Springer used to say) there’s more to this story…

Now, it seems to me that the results of the survey can be interpreted quite differently.

The main result of the survey was the following: “as the number of black students increased, student satisfaction with their educational experience dropped, as did their opinion on the quality of education and the work ethic of their peers. In addition, the more diverse the institution, the more likely students were to respond that they experienced discrimination.” The article adds that “the survey did not distinguish minority respondents from nonminority respondents.”

The failure to distinguish the respondents by race, when all the questions in the survey concerned race, suggests that the researchers’ methodology was dubious and flawed. And the article cites some other criticisms that cast doubt on the survey’s statistical methods.

But even if we assume the survey is correct, what does it show? An increase of black students in a predominantly white school leads to an increase in racial incidents. These incidents change the overall atmosphere of the institution, and have a negative effect upon the quality of education.

What this means, to me, is that white Americans are so overwhelmingly racist, that “diversity” does little or nothing to alleviate the situation. If more blacks enter a predominantly white environment, there will be more racial incidents, because there will be more cases where those black people have to deal with (overt or implicit) white racism. There will also be more cases in which white people regard black people exercising their equal rights as a threat to the privileges that most white people take for granted.

In other words–if the study does indeed reveal the inadequacy of the liberal shibboleth of “diversity,” it does so only by suggesting that far more radical action is needed in order to challenge and overthrow white supremacy.

The authors of the survey may intend (the article is unclear) to argue that affirmative action should be abandoned, because it does not lead to increased educational “excellence”; but what they really show, perhaps inadvertently, is that affirmative action is not enough, and that the self-congratulatory image we like to have of ourselves as being in a post-racial society, where issues about racism are a thing of the past (or where such issues are only kept alive by black people, whites having supposedly passed beyond racism) is completely bogus.

One Response to “The Value of “Diversity””


    shaviro of the pinocchio theory argues for more than affirmative action….