- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

Sometime in the coming year, the U. S. Supreme Court will reconsider the constitutionality of racial discrimination in college admissions, a matter addressed in the Bakke decision but not resolved. Bakke successfully argued that the University of California Medical School (Davis), by reserving a specific number of slots for selected minorities, violated the fourth clause of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and compromised his chance of admission. The Court decided 5 to 4 in favor of Bakke and directed the medical school to admit him.
Associate Justice Lewis F. Powell voted with the majority in favor of Bakke and against racial quotas but he confounded his vote with a schizoid opinion. Powell found racial quotas to be unconstitutional, but suggested in his opinion that race might still be considered as a "factor" in admission. Thus, Powell opposes racial quotas but not racial consideration … and that is the incongruity of logic which has confounded federal courts ever since. It is the contradiction that the Supreme Court seeks to redress this time around. My bet is that the court will outlaw race-conscious admission entirely, quite possibly by unanimous vote.
In the meantime, opinions and editorials from each side will be heard. On the one hand will be rational arguments of constitutional principle: On the other will be emotional pleas for judicial deference to social justice. Get ready for some preposterous and wholly gratuitous twaddle.
It starts with the zealous conviction persistent throughout the academy and seldom challenged that diversity enhances learning. So, a white student of, let's say, organic chemistry will learn better if his lab partner is black. And if that black lab partner is also among the several hundred students sitting in on his calculus lecture, those derivatives are an absolute breeze.
The American Association of University Professors apparently believes this, and so does the University of Michigan. U. Mich. even backs up that position with data, the same data that led the National Association of Scholars to precisely the opposite conclusion: "[T]hat data base clearly demonstrates the contrary there is no connection between campus racial diversity and the supposed educational benefits." Don't you just hate it when someone uses your data to invalidate your conclusion?
But data can mislead, and we all know that, so trust in diversity. Is not a rose bouquet much better with fern, baby's breath … and, eh, maybe a great big old sunflower stalk?
It is currently fashionable for small-minded academics to acknowledge, in ponderously thoughtful tones, the vast array of different languages heard on today's campus. The culturally sensitive reply to such weighty musings would be, "Oh my word, yes. Why, just yesterday, I overheard a West African and a Moroccan discussing Milton after class…in French!" It's all so very moving, but I say, "So what?" It's no advantage to have a kid who can read Hugo in the original or another who can read Cervantes or Mao when the class is on Milton. If there is to be a sophisticated, well-distributed discussion on the subtleties of Milton, students must be masters of the English language. Absent that mastery, linguistic diversity is irrelevant.
Like other politically correct folderol, the wholesale profession of diversity as an absolute virtue discourages independent thinking. It fosters the witless assumption that difference, any difference, is desirable. So, tell that to white South Africans, or Iraqi Kurds, or Albanian Kosovars.
To understand group cohesion, find the commonality. My granddaughter's church offers both a Spanish mass and an English mass, and to that extent, there are two congregations. A Methodist church in my neighborhood has both an English and a Korean constituency with different ministers, and while I might find a Korean rendition of "Bringing in the Sheaves" somewhat bland, I can appreciate the Wesleyan orientation. In both cases, theological concordance is the commonality that transcends linguistic and cultural diversity and unites these otherwise disparate factions.
The time nears when our Supreme Court will decide whether or not we will tolerate racial discrimination in the pursuit of diversity on campus. Tell anyone who will listen that we cannot indulge such misguided frolic. Our law recognizes but one class of citizen, a class singularly undifferentiated by race.
That is the American commonality. It is what defines us.

James Metcalf is a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Science at George Mason University. He is a current member of GMU's Minority and Diversity Issues Committee.


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