Jun 10 2008

The Left at Christian Univs, part 3: Diversity

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:48 pm
If you care to understand the development of diversity as an ideological, political enterprise in higher education, you need to read this book.

Diversity: The Invention of a Concept, by Peter W. Wood, was published in 2003, in the same time frame as the Supreme Court’s ruling in Gratz v. Bollinger, preceding by just a bit the ruling that outlawed University of Michigan’s undergraduate racial quotas for failing to meet the test of being “narrowly tailored.”

It is essential reading for anyone, right or left, who wants to understand the development of the diversity initiatives that are so popular in colleges and universities, as well as certain non-profits, government agencies and even some businesses, especially large corporations. It is very scholarly, dense with references (they don’t get in the way of the narrative, but they provide sources for further study, or confirmation for doubters), historically grounded, yet highly readable and accessible to general readers. The author is a professor of anthropology, and former Associate Provost of Boston University. He’s seen academia from the classroom and the administration building.

Better reviews than I would be likely to write can be found here and here.

Why it matters

As I discussed in The Left at Christian Universities, part 2, a trend for Christian universities and colleges seems to be to move left by adopting essentially secular enterprises. Diversity, as understood for the last 30 years or so, is one of these, regardless of how we adorn it. In an upcoming post, I’ll very briefly review some that history. However, for the full story, from 19th century antecedents to 1970s court cases to 1990s academic dogma, this book is a goldmine.

UPDATE: Part 4 in this series here.

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8 Responses to “The Left at Christian Univs, part 3: Diversity”

  1. Enharmonic says:

    Funny you would bring this problem of the inarticulate collgege grad up
    and refer to it as a postmodern problem. I dated a guy at APU who was a
    speech/communications major (class of ’75) who asked me to type a term
    paper for him (type really meant that in those days). The hand written
    mess that he gave me was apalling. I tried to make heads or tails of it
    and finally gave up. Somehow the school conferred the degree on him
    anyway (okay, he was a jock). Bottom line for the university; show us
    the money and we’ll show you the diploma. We want the numbers up and
    who cares what the majority of our students look like or think when they
    leave. As long as we have a few we can brag about, it’s all good.

  2. Enharmonic says:

    I really liked this quote from the review of the book by John Derbyshire,
    “Diversity is a cult for the ignorant, unimaginative, and incurious.
    The idea that it is beneficial to either individual persons or to society
    at large is supported by not a single shred of evidence.”

    After I graduated from APC(APU) I worked for Regal Books (a division of
    Gospel Light Christian publisher) as a proof editor and manuscript reviewer.
    I learned that all books were edited to an 8th grade reading level. This
    is why books like Peter Woods don’t make it into the mainstream. It isn’t
    that the average person is incapable of grasping deeper thoughts, but that
    they are seldom given the opportunity. This is especially true at a young
    age when the mind is the most easily influenced. Unfortunately, people
    read (and watch) so much lightweight stuff, thinking it is deep and are
    easily led astray.

    You might be surprised to find that the new big thing at Christianity
    Today is ethnic diversity on the church staff.

  3. harmonicminer says:

    Thanks for the interesting link, Enharmonic. I’ll probably be posting something on this in more detail soon.

    Your observations about reading level strike me as true. I recently participated in an extended conversation on a facebook blog that had many participants who are recent or soon-to-be college graduates. I was struck by the sloppy verbal skills, the imprecise formulation of ideas, the inability to stay on track and pursue a point, and the general unawareness of the sources of the ideas that were being espoused. I know it wasn’t a term paper, it was a blog… but it is difficult to force yourself to think and speak clumsily after you have learned to do it correctly.

    Some will say, of course, that the post-moderns are less concerned with enlightenment binary logic, and that the tone and relationship building are what matter.


  4. harmonicminer says:

    Yep. Before the self-described postmoderns got ahold of it, this was considered to be a weakness, though. Now it has ideological defense it previously lacked.

  5. harmonicminer » The Left at Christian Universities part 2 says:

    […] UPDATE:  Part 3 of this series here. […]

  6. harmonicminer » The Left at Christian Univs, part 4: Diversity says:

    […] This is a post in the chain on “The Left at Christian Universities”. The last, recommending a very important book, was The Left at Christian Univs, part 3: Diversity. […]

  7. harmonicminer » New Book Coming out on “Diversity” says:

    […] looks like it will be a fine complement to Peter Wood’s book, discussed here. As chapters of Purdy’s book are released, I’ll link to them […]

  8. harmonicminer » Diversity being displaced by sustainability? says:

    […] Wood, to whom I have referred elsewhere on this blog, has an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education called From Diversity to Sustainability: How […]

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