The Diversity Delusion

Posted on May 26, 2019


Once in a while I see a title to a book that produces a terrible jealousy. I wish I had thought of that one. And that’s even when I am not writing books about the subject.

Heather Mac Donald’s new book, The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine our Culture may not be War and Peace or Moby Dick, but it sure beats one of my recent titles, Work and Wealth in Scripture, which is ok and reasonable descriptive but just doesn’t have the zing of great book titles. It is an art. I am still waiting to make it to the New York Times Best Seller list, but, in the meantime, I am inspired, entertained, and learn from other far brighter and creative writers.

Ms. Mac Donald brings all the right credentials to the table, impeccable really when judged in the old school: Yale undergraduate, a bit of polish at Cambridge, then Stanford Law School. And for you New Englanders and anyone associated with the East, she graduated from Philips Exeter Academy, one of the primo prep schools in New England and in my days, just for boys. The world changes. Which bring us to our, and Ms. Mac Donald’s subject: are the radical new changes in the university, and learning in general, good or bad?

America is in a crisis she writes. “Toxic ideas first spread by higher education have undermined humanistic values, fueled intolerance, and widened divisions in our larger culture.” To which, I add, amen.

But let’s follow her thinking, not mine. To frame it better, think political correctness as the new prescription for what is taught, and learned, in the university of today. The signposts are clear. Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer are all oppressive white men. American history is populated by petty tyrants exploiting, demoralizing, and depriving women, blacks and Indians of their liberty and freedom. History is populated largely by racists and sexists. Culture is defined and judged by skin color, gender, and even sexual preferences.

And speech that “challenges these campus orthodoxies is silenced with brute force.” Her new book “argues that the root of this problem is the belief in

America’s endemic racism and sexism, a belief that has engendered a metastasizing diversity bureaucracy in society and academia.”

It gets even better. A summary of the book notes that: “Diversity commissars denounce meritocratic standards as discriminatory, enforce hiring quotas, and teach students and adults alike to think of themselves as perpetual victims. From #MeToo mania that blurs flirtations with criminal acts, to implicit bias and diversity compliance training that sees racism in every interaction, Heather Mac Donald argues that we are creating a nation of narrowed minds, primed for grievance, and that we are putting our competitive edge at risk.” What can we do?

The Diversity Delusion calls for a return to the classical liberal pursuits of open-minded inquiry and expression, by which everyone can discover a common humanity,” not driven by identity politics and radical divisions. The reception of her book has pushed her points into the national debate: “Universities justify their privileged position by claiming to be forums for the promotion of clarity, logic, and evidence. Yet their own policies, affecting millions, are too often defended with factual howlers, logical non sequiturs and mindless boilerplate. Heather Mac Donald may not persuade you on every point, but with her spitfire writing and scorn for nonsense she is forcing universities to live up to their own principles,” noted Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University.

Mac Donald’s conservative views make her a natural target. A lecture scheduled on the Black Lives Matter movement at Claremont, California’s McKenna College in 2017 was shut down by protesters on the grounds she is racist, fascist, and anti-black.

She brings to the table, in fact, a lot of questions that makes her a polarizing speaker. Not everyone will be persuaded by her arguments, but she needs to be heard in the spirit of free and open inquiry that has characterized higher education in this country. Competition should take place not only in the marketplace, but also in the intellectual and political communities.

And, as an historian, I am astounded and often appalled at the ignorance, or deliberate distortion, of our history to fit one’s politics. Genuine differences of interpretations and analysis should be welcomed, not sacrificed to the mavens of political identity or sexual politics or to satisfy racial or ethnic prejudices. Your voice matters, from college-age students to those veterans of the Second World War, now in their nineties. We need more cross-generational exchanges to learn from each other. Colleges and the University, right here in River City, could be a great place to start that exchange with an intergenerational conference during this year’s Bicentennial celebration. Who are you? Who are we?

Published as “Competition should be welcome in academia” Feb. 24 2019 in The Tuscaloosa News

Posted in: academia