Colleges and universities prattle on endlessly about their “diversity” programs: racial preferences for certain students, preferences for hiring faculty with the right ancestry, course offerings meant to appease diversity zealots, and so on. This fixation is justified on the grounds of “educational benefits” that supposedly flow from having a more diverse campus. That notion has been repeated so often that hardly anyone questions it.
But one daring professor who has long questioned it is Charles Geshekter, now retired from a long teaching career at Cal State, Chico. In this Martin Center piece, Geshekter plays the role of the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” saying that the diversity emperor is naked. It just isn’t true that students add anything to the learning experience merely on account of their race or ethnicity. Geshekter, who taught African history, points out that almost no undergraduate ever had enough knowledge about the subjects to have anything worthwhile to contribute. Black students don’t have any more knowledge about Africa than any others. It’s as ridiculous to think they have something meaningful to say about such courses (of any others for that matter) because their roots go back to Africa — as ridiculous as thinking that Geshekter himself would have any particular insights into Russia because of his family tree.
Moreover, the diversity mania seems to lead some students into thinking they are entitled to do well in a course merely because it’s about “their” people. He tells the story of a young black woman who was outraged over a failing grade on a test. Geshekter calmly pointed out that the exam showed she had learned nothing at all about the course material. To that, she replied that it was about “her people” and she had to do well. Instead of knuckling down and doing the necessary work, however, she just dropped the course.
Oh, but if you publicly criticize the diversity mania in academia, you won’t get a reasoned counter-argument — you’ll get pilloried. Geshekter writes about his experience. After criticizing the way CSU Chico tilted the scales in faculty hiring, he was berated as “an enemy of diversity.” That charge, he points out, was laughable given his own background.
Diversity has become such a sacred belief in academic circles that questioning it is now a taboo.
Geshekter closes the piece by observing that two groups of students actually did do something to make his courses more lively, but it was not due to their race. The groups were military veterans, who were diligent and posed sharp questions, and strong Christians, who often added interesting points in class. Of course, no college targets those students for inclusion for “educational benefits.”
It was once true in the U.S. that some people were looked down upon because of their ancestry. The civil rights movement attacked those views. Now, however, some are placed on a pedestal because of their ancestry, and the civil rights movement declares wanting to move away from that is evidence of racism. No – it’s just evidence that you think individuals should be evaluated on their own accomplishments.