compos mentis, "of sound mind"

With permission granted begrudgingly from the author, I published her articles in this blog in response to pleas from her fans--okay, mostly aunts and uncles--for ready access to her cogitations. As the humble president of her fan club, I am delighted to oblige.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Diversity is an Overrated Phenomenon

As part of the Amherst College admissions process in 2004, prospective students had to respond to one of several quotations from the school's alumni. The following is the quotation chosen and the essay response submitted by Elizabeth Petrik:

“For me, ‘diversity’ is not a political slogan or a theoretical goal; it is an absolute necessity. …It is impossible for students from any particular background to engage fully the racial and ethnic dimensions of American culture in a setting that does not approximate the racial composition of the society as a whole.” -Hoxie

Diversity is an overrated phenomenon. Virtually all American colleges and universities loudly proclaim their belief in promoting a "diverse" student body. Mr. Hoxie’s essay summarizes the position of these schools: to prepare students for the real world, we must simulate the real world by providing representatives from many races and ethnicities on our campus. The flaw in this argument is that its natural effect is to perpetuate the importance of racial and ethnic distinctions in society. In truth, however, these differences are superficial. They should not be allowed to dominate the culture of colleges and universities by becoming a major educational focus. To permit this is to put the backgrounds of individuals, over which they have no control, in a position of greater prominence than their reason, beliefs, and morals. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, it is to set “the color of their skin” above “the content of their character.”
Mr. Hoxie’s statement, “…‘diversity’ is not a political slogan or a theoretical goal; it is an absolute necessity,” expresses the substance of this error. The view that racial and ethnic variety is vital in the function of “society as a whole” is contradicted by history as well as logic. For example, the American Constitution, the oldest working framework for government in existence, is the product of a relatively homogenous set of minds: the Framers were all white men who were generally well read, young, and financially stable.
Proponents of diversity might argue that if black delegates had been present at the Philadelphia Convention, slavery might have been abolished, and the Civil War could have been averted. However, blacks could only have had a voice in the creation of the new government if they had been considered fundamentally equal to whites; the differences Mr. Hoxie proposes to emphasize would have had to be held irrelevant. In that case, there would have been no need to ensure a quota of black delegates at the convention. Qualified blacks would have been sent as a matter of course, and if no blacks had been selected, their rights would have been considered naturally identical to those of whites. The same reasoning applies to the injustices the Constitution permitted toward women, Native Americans, and other groups. The root of these evils is not the Founding Fathers’ disregard for the oppressed minorities; it is the excessive stress they laid on these groups’ differences from themselves.
The Framers’ mistake is now at work in the American education system, as revealed in the sentiments expressed by Mr. Hoxie. Contrary to his beliefs, the best way to prepare students to “engage fully the racial and ethnic dimensions of American culture” is not to degrade the members of these “dimensions” by treating them as statistics that “approximate the composition of the society as a whole.” Rather, schools ought to regard each as a human being whose merits should not be determined by such irrelevant factors as skin color or birthplace, but instead by ability, willingness, and aspiration to succeed.


Blogger Fan Club President said...

Saturday, April 23, 2005, I heard Bob Laird, Undergrad. Admissions Dir. at Berkeley answering questions about his book about affirmative action in university admissions. He actually said that it is important to do what is good for the greatest number of people. He boldly proclaimed that the ends justifying the means in this setting. He also said even Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in her Michigan Law School argument, stated that our nation must integrate before we can become colorblind. Huh? Whatever happened to the importance of MLK's vision of character over skin color?

8:22 AM  

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