Diversity, an Undefinable Proposition

AP Photo/Ben Margot, File

Diversity has been a hot-button issue for some time now. The Biden Administration intends to spend even more millions of our grandchildren’s money pushing the issue, and while there is some encouraging evidence that the private sector is finding the whole thing increasingly tiresome, be assured that the federal government will continue pushing the issue.


Here’s the problem: The very people pushing the nebulous concept of “diversity” can’t even define it, except in that they want to make sure that it doesn’t include diversity of thought.

“Diversity” is all the rage these days. It even attracts support across the ideological spectrum: demographic diversity on the Left and viewpoint diversity on the Right. For some, it has a magical quality. As Harvard’s president recently announced, to defend the university from those who claim it racially discriminates, “We write today to reaffirm the fundamental principle that deep and transformative teaching, learning, and research depend upon a community comprising people of many backgrounds, perspectives, and lived experiences.” Another defender of diversity opined, “Diversity of all kinds, but especially geographical and racial diversity, is part of what makes education at America’s elite colleges and universities a unique and highly sought-after experience.”

Unfortunately, these demands neglect to mention who should be included in the diversity recipe—the “many backgrounds” that Harvard’s president celebrates—and, equally important, to specify the optimal mix of diversity. Imagine that a group of chefs sought the best recipe for boeuf bourguignon (French beef stew). Nobody would suggest, for example, “only the best ingredients” or “only fresh ingredients.” They would instead focus on the specific cuts of beef or the ratio of onions to carrots. The same is true of diversity—absent details, it is just a vague, useless word. In modern education, diversity is an instrumental value, a means to an end, not a terminal value that exists for its own purpose.


Take a look at that last sentence: “In modern education, diversity is an instrumental value, a means to an end, not a terminal value that exists for its own purpose.” This is precisely correct, although it’s more important to look at university faculty than students. And lo and behold, college faculties are overwhelmingly Democrat.

My sample of 8,688 tenure track, Ph.D.–holding professors from fifty-one of the sixty-six top ranked liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News 2017 report consists of 5,197, or 59.8 percent, who are registered either Republican or Democrat. The mean Democratic-to-Republican ratio (D:R) across the sample is 10.4:1, but because of an anomaly in the definition of what constitutes a liberal arts college in the U.S. News survey, I include two military colleges, West Point and Annapolis. If these are excluded, the D:R ratio is a whopping 12.7:1.

Here’s another buzzword the Left likes bandying about: sustainability. This situation in our higher education system is not sustainable. But the study above pretty plainly shows that this isn’t a cultural issue, it’s a Left v. Right issue, and in this arena as well as in government, it’s one the Left has been winning.

Want to see some results? We have an inarguable diversity hire in our Vice President, whose word salads are nothing short of embarrassing. We have a Supreme Court justice who can’t define “woman,” pleading that she’s not a biologist. These people are in their positions not because of outstanding records or achievements; they are there because of their plumbing and skin tone. But both are, indelibly and unarguably, creatures of the political Left. That’s the Left’s idea of “diversity.”


Speaking of which – back to “diversity”:

“Diversity” is an empty vessel whose main purpose is to advance a political agenda, and it has always been that way. When Harvard in the 1920s decided that there were too many urban Jews of Eastern European extraction, it “diversified” its student body by admitting “more well-rounded” young men residing outside the big eastern cities, who excelled in leadership and sports. The number of big-city Eastern European Jews fell, and the WASP ascendency continued, at least for a few more decades. Today’s Left predictably prefers to diversify schools exclusively with students drawn from groups that overwhelmingly vote Democratic, namely, blacks, Hispanics, women, and gays.

This “diversity game” might be played across the ideological spectrum. Conservatives should abandon viewpoint diversity—which is hopeless, given the multitude of beliefs on everything “conservative”—and instead focus on diversity of life experiences to advance their agenda. Possibilities include military veterans, older students with blue-collar work experience, Appalachian rednecks, evangelical Christians, and ultra-Orthodox Jews, among other “under-represented minorities.” Happily, these categories have nothing to do with legally toxic racial preferences. To be sure, there’s no guarantee that some Iowa farm boys will enhance a Harvard classroom, but this version of campus diversity will help level the political playing field.

The problem here is this: The Left, who currently holds overwhelmingly majority control of higher education, has no interest in viewpoint diversity. The veneer is enough. As the great Andrew Breitbart pointed out, politics is downstream of culture, and the Left controls the culture of higher education, which is shaping the minds of too many young people. They don’t want depth; they want breadth, and right now, they’re realizing that goal.


But there’s some hope, and it comes from the private sector, into which most young student skulls-full-of-mush are eventually, inevitably thrown. Politics may be downstream from culture, but culture is downstream from economics, and there are signs that in the corporate world, and maybe even in some corners of academia, the shine is off the diversity apple. Let’s hope that trend continues.


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