Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Diversity


Diversity. A fine word. We all want lots of diversity in our lives. When we go to the grocery store to buy, say…beer, we like the stores that stock 50 different brands of brew. When we purchase a cable television package we want a diversity of channels, not just NBC, CBS, and ABC. Since we are not North Korean, we desire diversity in our clothing, lots of different styles and colors in our closets. But somewhere down the line in the field of higher education, the word “diversity” has become associated with another fine word…moron.

Consider, if you will, the latest advance in the diversity project at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where they are striving mightily to “place the mission of diversity at the center of institutional life so that it becomes a core organizing principle.” One would have thought that the “center of institutional life” at a “university” would have been reserved for, you know…education, but what do I know? I’m not an educational expert like the luminaries at UW.

The interesting part of this new project at Wisconsin comes in the fine print of the plan as follows:

…it calls for “proportional participation of historically underrepresented ethnic-racial groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs and high demand majors, and in the distribution of grades.”

Hmmm…What measures does a professor have to use, besides a student’s mastery of the material, in order to properly distribute the correct grades, you might be wondering? Well, there’s lots of stuff…

individual differences in personality, learning styles and life experiences, group and social differences that may manifest itself through personality, learning styles, along with differences of race, gender, sex, and gender identification or expression, sexual orientation, age, country of origin, physical or intellectual ability, emotional health, social-economic status, and affiliations that are based upon cultural, religious, political, or other identities”

Goodness. Using this menu of excuses, I could have graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Richmond, instead of “Thank the Laude.” I mean, I clearly struggled in the hard sciences because of my “learning style” which was heavy on baffling them with bull**** on the essay questions and using my patented guessing system on the multiple choice. My “life experiences” didn’t help out either, since I was working in a pallet manufacturing factory 30 hours a week while I was in school. As for “emotional health”, are you kidding me? I was a basket case every time I opened a blue book in Dr. Rilling’s British history class. And, don’t even get me started on my “intellectual ability” or “personality.” You try sitting for an hour and a half listening to Dr. Bogel pontificate on the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict with ADHD!

Clearly, under this new regime of performance analysis being employed at the University of Wisconsin, I could have turned out totally different. Perhaps I could have graduated with an advanced degree in Bio-Physics, and won a Nobel Prize by now.

Seriously though, when one thinks through the long term consequences of this type of Balkanized learning curve, the results will not be good. Suppose you are in a heart surgeon’s office and notice that he earned his undergraduate degree from UW-Madison? How confident will you be in allowing someone to cut your chest open who was given diversity A’s in biology because of his low self-esteem issues? You might not give a hoot about his sexual orientation, but when you consider that it might have helped him pass Surgery101, you might care…a lot!

So, while the good people in Madison work hard fine tuning their “representational equity,” I’ll look for a Johns Hopkins diploma next time I need an operation.