If you read the IHE piece Roger mentions and get to the comments, you find that Wake Forest professor Joseph Soares weighs in to say that diversity is educationally good because “it teaches youths to broaden their perspectives and sensibilities.” He cites a UCal paper as proof.
I haven’t looked at the paper, but what Soares wants us to believe is that by mixing in a few additional “students of color,” you can make all the students somehow view society in a better way. I’m very skeptical. First of all, it isn’t as if young people otherwise have no knowledge about the existence of people whose ancestry differs from theirs. American kids grow up in a highly “diverse” society. Many live in “diverse” communities and see “different” kids at school, at Tae Kwon Do, at concerts. They know about Oprah, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez. A few might even know about Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele. It isn’t college diversity or nothing. We should wonder how much additional exposure to “diversity” the typical college student gets out of a school’s determination to have a “critical mass” (as the University of Michigan put it) of certain ethnic groups.
Secondly, keep in mind that the students we are talking about who supposedly add all the “diversity” and cause everyone to have broader sensibilities are, first and foremost, American teenagers. The son or daughter of a black professional is probably indistinguishable from all the rest of the students except for skin tone. Just how does having students like that comprise, say, 5 percent rather than 2 percent of the student body make any difference in the way students think about society?
When I was in college, for several years I roomed with a student from Singapore. We got along well, but I don’t think that my “perspective” was changed in the slightest for having gotten to know him and can’t see how his presence on campus had any effect whatsoever on the great majority of students who didn’t know him.