Tuesday, August 28, 2007

TJN on An Inconvenient Truth

Go to The Johnsville News and you'll find an outstanding post. Parts of it follow. Then I add a few comments.

An inconvenient truth: Diversity Hurts Higher Education

One of the stories that flew past the radar this month was the Boston Globe article entitled the "Downside of Diversity" by Michael Jonas. The stunning finding that it reported has had a few weeks to rattle around the blogosphere. It was a shocker:

A Harvard political scientist finds that diversity hurts civic life. What happens when a liberal scholar unearths an inconvenient truth? -- IT HAS BECOME increasingly popular to speak of racial and ethnic diversity as a civic strength. From multicultural festivals to pronouncements from political leaders, the message is the same: our differences make us stronger.

But a massive new study, based on detailed interviews of nearly 30,000 people across America, has concluded just the opposite. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam -- famous for "Bowling Alone," his 2000 book on declining civic engagement -- has found that the 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 homogenous 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.

"The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.[…]
The related issue about the value of diversity in higher education was raised today by Prof. KC Johnson's profile of Duke Group of 88 member, Prof. William Chafe. Prof. Johnson's post made these observations regarding academic diversity:
William Chafe is Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of History, where his scholarship, as his website states, “reflects his long-term interest in issue of race and gender equality.” He specializes in U.S. history after World War II, with a particular focus on African-Americans, women, or radical whites. [...]

In a 2002 address, he explained his strategy to faculty personnel matters: “There has remained a tendency to think of Duke as a place of wealth, whiteness and privilege. We aim to change that.” The Chronicle added that “Chafe said faculty diversity is still lacking, and that the University must continue to seek new ways to attract women and minorities.” [...]

Elite schools normally have placed academic excellence, not “diversity,” as their primary goal in hiring, as Economics professor Roy Weintraub pointed out at the time... Duke makes choices at the margin in every resource allocation decision and every programmatic expenditure. Have we chosen to settle for using our resources to achieve a more diverse faculty instead of a more intellectually distinguished one? The record of the past decade seems to indicate that the answer is ‘yes.’”[…]
The part about a "diversity" dean would have been considered funny once upon a time. But, after watching the diversity enabled Duke Group of 88, attack, vilify, and academically injure their own students, the word diversity now makes us flinch as if a dark dangerous shadow swept over us.

If diversity hurts civic life, then it seems logical that it could also hurt academic life, especially in the extreme. It's been said, "job security tends to corrupt, and tenure corrupts absolutely." Tenured diversity looks like the extreme that fostered Duke's tenured and corrupt G88 vigilantes. […]

Folks, All of TJN's post is worth reading. It include snips of some bloggers’ comments on Putnam’s study as well as links to their posts.

Message to The Johnsville News: It’s a great post. It should be must reading for the administrators in Duke’s Allen Building and the Univeristy’s trustees.