We live in the age of inclusion where we are to be welcomed and treated equally, but, paradoxically, we are all to be labeled clearly so that everyone knows what status we may embody. Take college campuses, the incubator of liberalism gone amok. So-called “diversity training” has attempted to make students painfully aware of all of their differences (well, all differences but ones of opinion, since diversity of thought has become intolerable in academia).
Student Carrie Pritt recently wrote of her experience as an incoming freshman at Princeton University, where different labels (white, male, wealthy) were rattled off and students were asked to stand if they identified with that group. “But what did it really accomplish?” she asked. “In compressing us into isolated communities based on our race, religion or gender, the minister belittled every other piece of our identities. He faced a crowd of singular young adults and essentially told them that their heritage outweighed their humanity. The message was clear: “know your kind and stick to it. Don’t risk offending people from other backgrounds by trying to understand their worldviews.” Although she understands that the university was trying to do something good, Carrie wonders, “Why were the university administrators, who speak so highly of diversity, choosing to strip us of our individuality?” It’s a good question.
Trying to fit us all into neat little boxes rather than celebrating our individuality is never a good idea; even readers of the New York Times agree. The left-leaning paper ran an article entitled “Campus 101: Learning How Not to Offend,” and letters to the editor came pouring in to push back. Civil rights historian Stewart Burns wrote “I have noticed, however, that once academic administrations properly commit to necessary diversity programs, they sometimes err on the side of overkill that can unintentionally help to discredit such programs.” Self-described liberal democrat John Hagemann, who has daughters at Boston College and the University of Michigan, said “My daughters are pursuing higher education to learn more about the real world and what it is like. Our lives do not supply ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘safe spaces.’ Can one not use a bit of common sense and just get on with learning?”
It’s not just higher education. A study by the Harvard Business Review has found that mandatory diversity training in corporations also fails. Not only did the programs prove to be unhelpful, but some minority groups were eventually less well represented in the years after adoption. “When we began to interview managers to understand why popular programs don’t work, it began to make sense,” Harvard Sociologist Frank Dobin, who co-authored the study, told The College Fix. “Social scientists have long known that if you try to control people’s thoughts and behavior, they rebel. That’s what we find—programs designed to reeducate managers or stop them from discriminating directly tend to backfire.”
I remember hearing about college campuses in the 1960s as places where students pushed boundaries, defended free speech, and demanded to be treated as individuals. Today, they seek the extra boundaries safe spaces provide when free speech isn’t what they want to hear, and they embrace a form of diversity training that paradoxically serves to strip students of their individuality.
Nowhere is this individuality less tolerated on campus than in diversity of thought. As Pritt said, teachers openly mocked Trump voters and protected Hillary Clinton against any criticism. Only one school of thought is safe, despite what campuses claim about valuing diversity. “The point of diversity is not that each culture is different, but that each person must live his own life and develop his own worldview.” Academia is openly intolerant of diversity of thought, but exercises like the one Pritt experienced at Princeton are even worse. They strip students of one of the most important things for creating genuine diversity and intellectual rigor: individuality.