Category Archive 'Yale. Diversity'

07 Nov 2010

Diversity: Tool for Ensuring Conformity

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How do Ivy League universities make sure that they are only admitting reliable conformist tools these days? By incorporating loyalty oaths to liberal group think and political correctness in the application process.

Glen Ricketts and Peter Wood describe the college applications diversity essay in the latest National Association of Scholars newsletter.

The CAO [Common Application Online] at Yale, for example, asks prospective students:

    A range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences adds much to the educational mix. Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.

That’s virtually identical with what you can expect to find at dozens of other institutions, where “diversity” is cultivated with tedious uniformity.

Let’s weigh this question. The first sentence simply asserts that the “range of academic interests, personal perspectives, and life experiences” adds to the “educational mix.” Few people would doubt that, and the sentence is no doubt written to command bland assent. But if we force it to stand up for inspection, it displays a remarkable intellectual slovenliness. When we go to college, we do indeed benefit from encountering people with views and experiences other than our own. But that encounter depends on something else: a shared commitment to the broader purposes of education. The enlivening “mix” that Yale would like to foster requires students, at some level, to put aside differences at least long enough to consider one another’s views.

The “diversity” doctrine doesn’t necessarily prevent that deeper sharing from taking place, but it does cut against it and urges students instead to huddle inside their pre-chosen identities. The Yale CAO question is the first of a long series of subtle steps that teach students to lead with their particularities and to cultivate a kind of group vanity.

The second sentence in the assignment (“Given your personal background, describe an experience that illustrates what you would bring to the diversity in a college community, or an encounter that demonstrated the importance of diversity to you.”) is a masterpiece of question-begging. What of the student who has slowly and painfully worked his way out of psychological isolation or social alienation to achieve a sense of identification with the larger community? Such a person would seem to have no acceptable answer to the task of explaining “the importance of diversity” to his own life. Would the Yale admissions office look favorably on the student who answered, “I have found ‘diversity’ to be a cudgel by which self-appointed elites attempt to enforce their preferences over others. Diversity to me has been the experience of having my individuality denied, suppressed, and demeaned. It is a word that summarizes a smarmy form of oppression that congratulates itself on its high-mindedness even as it enforces narrow-minded conformity.”

No, any student really seeking admission to Yale wouldn’t say such a thing. But chances are very good that a great many students harbor insights very much like that. They know their ethnic or racial categorization, their socio-economic status, and other such characteristics matter far more to admissions offices than their actual thoughts about who they are.

These “diversity” essay questions are never innocent. They are a tool to keep college applicants aligned with the dominant ideology on campus, which continues to favor group categorizations over both individuality and the broader claims of shared community.

I would not have gotten in in the current era. No doubt about it.

I would have written a belligerent and full-throated denunciation of group identity and privileges, ruthlessly pointing out its inconsistencies, contradictions, and hypocrisies, making the argument for intellectual diversity, and I suppose I would have attended some very different college from Yale.

Hat tip to the Barrister.

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