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November 12, 2002

Education and Race


Is it just me, or do stories about racial diversity initiatives at colleges make you want to laugh and cry at the same time? The spectacle of university administrators—to whom, let’s not kid ourselves, undergraduates are just one more revenue stream—lumbering out to do a spot of social engineering on a vulnerable population of 18-year-olds is just too painful for anything other than sick humor. As a result, when I open the newspaper and find stories on the topic, I tend to skip them, as I presume many others do as well. But the headline of the New York Times’ story of November 12: “Colleges Find Diversity is Not Just Numbers” was so eloquent in its blandness I had to check it out. (If nothing else, I knew that I would enjoy the spectacle of the Times uncomfortably squirming through the minefields of its own institutional political correctitude while trying to discuss changes in, well, another institution's political correctitude.)

It used to be that freshman orientation here at Dartmouth College revolved around hiking up mountains and sleeping in huts along the Appalachian Trail. But this year one of the highlights was a talk by Karim Marshall, a senior, who told the 1,100 new students about his arrival on campus from a predominantly black high school in Washington. "Everyone in my world was black," Mr. Marshall began. His grandmother from Mississippi could not even understand why he wanted to attend mostly white Dartmouth, he said. In the audience, Matthew Oppenheimer, a white student from Boise, Idaho, was riveted by Mr. Marshall's story, just as Dartmouth administrators had hoped. "I couldn't imagine what it was like to come from his community to Dartmouth," Mr. Oppenheimer said. "I have such respect for him being so open."

I suppose Dartmouth administrators must revel in the feelings of their power when setting up such orgies of virtue. It must be quite a rush to be able to grind the identities of 18-year-old children down to mere racial ciphers. ("You're either white and thus a privileged racist or you're not and thus a victim--that's all you need to know, people. Just get with the program, okay?") With the Dartmouth power structure looming over Mr. Oppenheimer at his orientation, I bet it never occurred to this rather naïve college freshman that he, with equal justice, could stand up and relate tales of his all-white childhood in Idaho to Mr. Marshall. Or that Mr. Marshall’s own humanity was being stripped away by being paraded around as a personification of the Black College Experience. The only person I can actually contemplate in this whole tableau without feelings of embarrassment is Mr. Marshall’s grandmother, who sounds like a woman of too much sense to subject herself to the improving influence of Dartmouth College.

I guess it needs to be said aloud every so often that the P.C. treatment of minorities is just as morally obtuse as racism: both ignore the individual humanity of minority students while focusing on their race. In my university days, the greatest obstacle to getting to know students from other races or ethnicities was their status as Official Designates Proving That We're Trying To Make Up For Our Racism. I mean, who ever made a genuine friend with ulterior motives like Proving You're Not Really A Racist By Having Such a Diverse Group of Buddies? (Of course, the fact that minority students back in the 1970s were strongly encouraged to hang out at their own segregated social facilities didn't help much.) But with its institutional virtue on the line, Dartmouth isn’t about to scruple at anything as trivial as simple human realities:

In his welcoming speech to freshmen, Mr. Wright, the president, pointed out that surveys from previous classes showed that students arrived on campus wanting to transcend boundaries and make different kinds of friends, but that upon graduation they indicated that they wished they had been more successful. "The faculty and administration are eager to help you in this challenge," Mr. Wright said.

Gee, I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of totalitarian “help” I could do without. (It's also stupifying to contemplate the faculty and administration helping you to make friends--do you think Mr. Wright actually thought about this speech before he read it?)

WrightDartmouth.jpg President Wright is Eager to Help

Not that the heavy hand of Dartmouth stops with mere speeches:

Dartmouth is offering diversity training to any student or faculty member, and many are taking part. It is mandatory for all nonfaculty staff members, from administrators to groundskeepers. It is creating new lounge areas where students can gather and is even telling fraternities and sororities that they must file plans for embracing diversity — plans for which they will be held accountable…Training for staff members includes workshops in which they are asked to think of Dartmouth in terms of classism, racism and sexism, and then to make recommendations for improvements. They are also told to find ways to incorporate those suggestions into their own lives. [Emphasis added]

I bet Dartmouth’s nonfaculty staff is delighted to be officially designated as racists, don’t you? Why do you suppose the faculty and the students got off so lightly—they might squawk to the press? Well, if there’s anything we can be sure of in this whole painful scenario, it’s that, as the New York Times so sagaciously notes:

…Most everyone agrees that Dartmouth has a lot of work ahead of it.

It sure does.



posted by Friedrich at November 12, 2002


One thing I've discovered is that it's wisest to attend a college located where you might well live after graduation, so you can stay in touch with friends and be plugged into the alumni old boys network as you pursue your career. Therefore, Dartmouth, which is located up some back road somewhere or other in the whitest part of the country should not be so aggressively trying to lure blacks to Hanover. They aren't doing black kids from the cities or from down South any favors in life. These blacks are not going to settle in bustling Hanover.

A big problem with the concept of "diversity" is that universities interpret it to mean that all colleges should be the same. Thus, if Columbia or Penn is X% black, then so should Dartmouth. This also works against forming a critical mass of black talent at any one college

Posted by: Steve Sailer on November 12, 2002 6:23 PM

I'd always thought of Dartmouth as a kind of rowdy relic -- one of the colleges least likely to go the way of Smith or Berkeley. Sorry to hear that isn't the case.

"Come to Dartmouth -- we offer a first-class brainwashing" -- ah, for a little truth in advertising.

Posted by: Michael on November 13, 2002 9:06 AM

What's really sad about this whole thing is that Dartmouth thinks they can force this "racial diversity" on the campus population. As I remember it, black students hung with black students and white students hung with white students. This was not a segregation imposed upon them by the university, but a self-imposed one. It always bothered me, too, that students felt they had to hang with their "own people". The only way I can see to effect the kind of diversity Dartmouth would like to see is to start ignoring it. As long as the differences between black and white and hispanic and asian are pointed out - for whatever reason - people are going to feel these differences have meaning. Too bad.

Posted by: Alexandra on November 13, 2002 12:14 PM

Friedrich, I envy you your ability to laugh (even while you feel like crying)at this sort of pathological indoctrination to which practically every college student is now subjected. It reminds me of the era of the Chinese Red Guards and Russian purge trials; now, instead of confessing publicly to harboring secret bourgeois individualist tendencies, you are required to stand up and acknowledge to the world your nondiversity sins -- even if that consists only in not having previously listened to a harangue about growing up in a black environment.

Most sick jokes (e.g., the schoolboy classic: "Daddy, why am I walking in circles?" "Shut up or I'll nail your other foot to the floor")are tolerable because we know, even as we wince a little, that the premise is absurd, a flight of imagination.

But the racial, ethnic and political catechism imposed by our Stalinist educational bureaucrats and enforced by teaching faculty and diversity commissars isn't imaginary. I can't laugh at jokes about a real plane crash or act of torture; by the same token, I can't laugh at an act of violence against free thought and free speech.

You can argue that laughter is the best antidote for the cult of political correctness and racial polarization. That would be true if it were an isolated phenomenon, a local infection. But it's gone way beyond that: the religion of diversity has -- to carry on a bit with the medical metaphor -- spread throughout the bloodstream of society. It's everywhere: grade schools, high schoos, universities, network TV, the majority of newspapers, the courts ... just about every public realm.

That isn't to deny that many people -- mostly of older generations, alas -- dislike and oppose multi-culti brainwashing. The trouble is, they can't do anything about it, and they know it. They understand that the social engineering priesthood is in charge of education, that elected representatives are, at the least, too fearful of having the racist label pinned on them to publicly oppose the diversity army, that the judiciary, right up to the Supreme Court, and even the business world have buckled under to the ideology of diversity.

I can't laugh because I'm scared. I don't want to end up in a forced-labor re-education camp.

Does that sound ridiculous, melodramatic? A few years ago I would have said so. I believed that the common sense of the American people, their historical aversion to ideology, would in the end blot up the spread of PC.

But it hasn't happened. Let's not kid ourselves. The diversity bullies have won. They're in charge. And we can't afford to place our hopes in the idea that today's students, so blatantly confronted at every turn with propaganda, held up to ridicule by their teachers and fellow students for any thought crimes against diversity totalitarianism, will get their fill of it and revolt. It's too much to expect that young people with no power and no opportunty to develop an independent point of view will become martyrs to free thought. As the Jesuits used to say, give me the boy for the first fifteen years and he's mine for life.

No, no one is now proposing re-education camps for the rest of the population that doesn't throw incense on the altars of diversity. But when this degree of conformity is embraced by our institutions of higher learning and approved by what many still think is the country's most prestigious newspaper, does it really seem impossble that we will see such a thing come to pass 10 years down the road?

I'm starting to make contingency plans. I have a question for those who read this: if it becomes necessary to emigrate, where can I and my loved ones go? Is there anywhere in the developed world that is reasonably free from savage multiculturalism and, just as important, is likely to stay that way?

Over to you.

Posted by: Rick Darby on June 29, 2003 10:03 AM

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