The 'Diversity' Movement: Defeating Itself, Destroying Society
As America vaults itself into a period of accelerated change in areas of culture, politics, religion (or lack thereof), marriage, health care, and a whole host of other arenas, the term we hear more and more from government, higher education, and business is the word "diversity." The purveyors of the diversity movement ask us to embrace the concept as a worthy goal and an important part of America's future. Should we join them?
We appear to be on the cusp of a different America. The recent election proclaimed loudly and clearly that the non-white portion of the nation is growing and will continue to grow. Moreover, several states via referendum embraced gay marriage, driven by an emerging acceptance among younger people. On subject after subject, liberal pundits tell us that change is here and that only backward-looking Republicans and fundamentalist Christians could possibly oppose it.
But in an environment of accelerating change, we should remember that there is a downside to everything. Getting married means commitment. Landing a job means giving up other possibilities. Playing one sport means not playing others. Keeping life insurance means paying the premiums. So what is the downside to the "diversity" agenda"? Since all change involves giving up one thing in order to embrace something else, what are we giving up?
Apparently a lot. In a large study of nearly 30,000 people across the country, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, has shown some highly negative results from "diversity."
Michael Jonas, in an article called "The Downside of Diversity," published in Boston.com in 2007, encapsulated Putnam's research as follows:
[T]he greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogeneous settings. The study, the largest ever on civic engagement in America, found that virtually all measures of civic health are lower in more diverse settings.
But the diversity-peddlers rarely tell us about any downside. In the case of gay marriage, is it just a net addition with no subtraction, no negative? Is it, as some would say, "all good"? Is this all about reactionaries keeping others from "people they love"? Or could the issues be real and substantive?
This past week, the Obama administration has disinvited a pastor, Louie Giglio, from speaking at the upcoming inauguration. Why? Because Giglio was discovered to have given an "anti-gay" sermon, and, as the administration puts it, his words "don't reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural." Have we come to the place in our country where one must toe the line or not be allowed to speak? By focusing on outward differences in college admissions, are we simply doing the easy work, instead of promoting diversity of background, income, and intellectual perspective? Are we sufficiently protecting freedom of speech and freedom of religion in the face of the diversity agenda?
The truth is that the diversity movement has problems, and those who tout it must acknowledge them now -- before this invented concept makes us all less free, less honest, and less educated.
Here are a few reality checks for the age of diversity. It is time to ask: after all the diversity initiatives, what have been the results?
1.College campuses are less tolerant than ever before.
One result is that real debate and dialog suffer. The Atlantic's Wendy Kaminer explains why.
One of the ironies of this drive for civility ... [is that] you end up encouraging incivility, because people don't know how to argue. They don't know what to do when confronted with an idea they really don't like. They don't have an administrator they go complain to, and so they just shout it down because they haven't learned how to do anything else.
Perhaps also due to the like-minded aspects of the blogosphere, people do not know how to respectfully argue their points of view. Shouting matches are too often the order of the day on the same campuses that embrace "diversity." Conservative speakers are often not invited to campus, or else they are shouted down or interrupted. In fact, in America today, almost all protests that interrupt or shout down speakers are generated by left-wing groups like Code Pink.
Too many campuses choose to wall themselves off from differing ideas through anti-bullying or speech codes that attempt to provide an ipso facto restraint on speech. As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has put it, too often "speech I don't like" is translated into "speech that should be outlawed."
2. People who hold traditional views on marriage and other issues are wrongly dismissed as bigoted, homophobic, or in need of being cured.
This has been the downside to what I call "liberal inevitability" from the start. Just as the 12 Steps work "sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly," too many liberals believe we will all come around to their views eventually. In their view, conservatives ought to be cured and will be eventually. When looking at Supreme Court justices, liberals could be right. Most of them do cave in some manner. But, thankfully, Potomac fever tends to be a local disease, and liberalism has been shown to be far from inevitable in other places.
Unlike today, decades ago, liberals asked to be listened to and given the opportunity to state their case. When I was a college student, I remember reading the story in our student paper of a gay student coming out about his sexuality. I remember thinking that writing that article took courage and that I ought to try to understand him. But now the tables have turned, and anyone who thinks differently from this student is considered an oppressor, ignorant, or morally deficient.
Recently, my alma mater, Williams College, conducted a celebration of one of its most distinguished political science professors, Robert Gaudino, who died at the age of 46 in 1974. The distinguishing characteristic of Gaudino's teaching style was the Socratic method -- his uncanny and disciplined style of teaching through asking questions. Another student and I who were both exposed to Gaudino's teaching methods discussed recently whether Gaudino was a liberal or a conservative. The truth is, neither of us knew. The reason is because Mr. Gaudino believed that his calling was to teach and help us to think, not reach certain predetermined conclusions. This singular commitment made him a celebrated teacher -- the kind we find all too rare today.
Unfortunately, too many teachers today use the classroom for indoctrination rather than education. At our local state university, story after story has come to me concerning professors bashing conservatives in the classroom, politically intimidating students, and even lowering grades for those who do not support politically correct conclusions. (This is not to be confused with conservative students who simply write bad papers that fail to support their arguments.)
But most disturbing in the light of diversity initiatives are students who view others who disagree as being sick, evil, or homophobic. A friend of mine has two sons, one of which attended an elite college in the Northeast. My friend is a tolerant, intelligent, and graceful person who happens to embrace traditional values regarding marriage. Do his sons agree to disagree with him and keep talking? No -- they somehow believe that his soul must be healed, his reactionary views rejected, and his thinking returned to acceptable norms. If this is the fruit of "diversity" training, it is bad fruit. Can a person graduate from an elite college and never learn respect for others who disagree? Too many do today, and it is a bad predictor for the much-sought after "civility."
Liberals might make the counter charge that conservatives believe they too are sick and in need of being cured. However, most conservatives seek to persuade liberals, not cure them. Conservatives want liberals to examine the consequences of their beliefs and policies and reconsider them. Do liberals need to change their minds? Yes. But conservatives are more than willing to debate them on the issues on a level playing field. Too many on the left these days believe they own the playing field.
But it is the colleges and universities themselves who hold up "homophobia" as the problem. Defined as such, people who disagree with gay marriage are not worthy to be listened to. Instead, they are in need of a psychological cure. The word "homophobia" belies liberal tolerance and mocks pleas for "diversity." Liberals themselves should get rid of it once and for all. The fact that they have not done so is testament to their preference for clubs rather than arguments.
3. Embracing diversity in household formation blinds us to the reality that children of lasting man-woman marriages fare best.
The diversity movement will protest that there simply is not enough research on non-traditional families to say what the impact on children might be. But what we do know is clear. Gay-parent households deprive children of a parent of the opposite sex. Children from families where the mother and father stay together are significantly more well-adjusted, confident, and adaptable than those who do not come from these families. Too often, diversity advocates focus on the well-being of couples while ignoring the impact on children. If the diversity movement says it wants to empower the powerless, shouldn't it be concerned about the impact of its policies on children? Shouldn't social policy show bias toward what works best and keeps the most vulnerable from being hurt? Or is the desire for same-sex adults to call their relationship "marriage" more important?
4. The diversity movement confuses rejection of views with rejection of people, shutting off debate.
My niece was fifteen years old. She had been home-schooled until the time she entered a nearby New England prep school as a day student. Her parents had taught her how to think. Soon after she entered the school, my niece was asked to join a group to plan student activities on campus, including the task of deciding guidelines of how debate was to be framed on campus. Someone put a motion on the table that read as follows: "All points of view are to be respected." My niece proposed a change. "All people are to be respected." "Not all points of view are worthy of respect," she asserted. Her motion passed unanimously. Her fellow students immediately appreciated the difference between people and views, and they were right to do so.
Formally, in the days when people knew how to debate, the Oxford-Cambridge style was the order of the day. Ideas could be mocked, pilloried, demolished, propagated, and prosecuted as self-evident. People actually learned things. Nothing was off the table. After the debate, it was time to head to the pub.
Unfortunately, the diversity movement has wrapped itself in the wrong-headed idea that "I am my views." This tends to place people of color, the LBGT crowd, and others claiming non-white ethnic heritage in a privileged position beyond criticism. In their eyes, everything becomes an ad hominem attack and is therefore out of bounds. The results are clear: why does one need an argument when, like Senator-Elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, demonstrating that one is 1/32 Cherokee is enough? The result of this has been bad ideas like "black people cannot possibly be racist" and "because I am gay, you cannot criticize gayness in any way."
Now admittedly, some of this reaction has been precipitated by actual ad hominem attacks. These have been generated by both sides. But in any argument, people who are disciplined ought to be ready for these, call them out, and show them the door. A reasonable audience will support ruling out these attacks in most cases. But the result of this "I am my argument" false shield has been an irrational cutting off of dialog and reason and learning. In all debate, thinking must be encouraged while feelings must be controlled. To do the reverse is to invite ignorance, not clarity.
5. Diversity as it is proclaimed is fundamentally dishonest.
Sometimes, the diversity agenda morphs into a naïve unawareness of its own motives. Below is an advertisement for Virginia Theological Seminary (full disclosure: I graduated in 1977 with an M. Div.), which, as an institution, along with the Episcopal Church, to which it feeds graduates, has gone decidedly revisionist in recent years. VTS now has an LGBT chapter on campus. The advertisement reads:
We believe in one God
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We believe in the whole Church, not just some of the Church.
Not just the left or right sides of the Church.
The whole Church
No one is excluded.
We need each other.
Virginia Theological Seminary. We believe.
At first reading, this statement seems the epitome of diversity and inclusion. It seems to say, "We welcome everyone." Signs all over the country read, "The Episcopal Church welcomes you." Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church is embroiled in a decades-long process of removing churches from their buildings, defrocking clergy, and suing congregations for hundreds of millions of dollars even as we speak.
All this from a church that says it values diversity. If VTS is for the "whole church," has it generated an article, a person, or a movement out of VTS opposing this? After decades of receiving publications from VTS, I have not seen one.
I learned long ago that for the Episcopal Church hierarchy, diversity cuts only one way. It means "conservatives must be more open-minded." It means that if you are an evangelical seminarian, we must send you to a seminary of our choosing to "round you out." Liberals are rarely sent to seminaries to cure them of emotionally driven revisionist beliefs.
The problem with the Virginia Theological Seminary statement is that it is either dishonest or incredibly naïve. Virginia Theological Seminary has been drifting left for decades, but its administrators cannot bring themselves to admit it. When has the majority of faculty ever united against a leftist proposal in the church? When have they ever united to support a rightward proposal before the church? I cannot name one time. They would probably say that they don't jump on divisive issues as an institution. Fine. But if VTS says it supports "the whole church, not just some form of the church," in what way has it lovingly confronted the "form" that has the power? Do they hire professors who either disagree with the prevailing ethos or who uphold and defend classic "mere" Christianity? Most of those people left the Episcopal Church long ago.
The students are the losers in the midst of a revisionist church sweeping away all its opponents in the name of "diversity." It is often said that a public figure is in deep trouble once he or she "begins to believe his own press clippings." If VTS believes this advertisement about itself, it is indeed in trouble. Or is it true that everyone who enters VTS's doors must embrace the diversity agenda as the mother's milk of theological education? Perhaps that explains the blissful ignorance.
Here is what we know. The diversity movement is not only deeply flawed; it is also far from a harmless ethos with no consequences for our culture, our values, or our institutions. It is time to acknowledge that diversity often results in the opposite of what it so loudly proclaims: a closed-off world that stifles debate, learning, and mutual respect.
Jay Haug is author of Beyond the Flaming Sword, available for Amazon.com. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.