Phi Beta Cons

Is this something or is this nothing?

That’s one of Dave Letterman’s comedy gigs on his show and this story on Inside Higher Ed reminds me of it.
Two grad students at the University of Michigan did a study of discussion groups where the subject for discussion was the question “Who is college for?” In their paper entitled “The Impact of Racial/Ethnic Structural Diversity and Opinion Diversity on Reconsidering One’s Beliefs about College Access” they conclude that “meaningful dialogue” where there are people of different races involved tends to change the attitudes of college students, but not to the extent of reevaluating their beliefs. That doesn’t sound like much, but the authors purport to see something significant: “there needs to be a way to ensure not only the presence of racially diverse peers but also meaningful interactions across races.”
That idea naturally leads to hand-wringing over the movement against engineering “diversity” through racial preferences: “Currently, affirmative action seems to be the most meaningful way to accomplish this, but of course it’s becoming a less plausible way in some universities,” said one of the authors.
I predict that, for all of those who think that the reason for college is overcome one’s prejudices by getting to know people of other races and how they think, this little study will be something. On the other hand, if you believe the the reason for college is to learn about academic subjects from professors, this is nothing.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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