Heather Mac Donald has written a no-holds-barred attack on the modern American university, where the absence of courage is only the tip of a very large and menacing iceberg…
The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture by Heather Mac Donald (288 pages, St. Martin’s Press, 2018)
This is a book that should be read by those who are, unfortunately, not all that likely to read it. No doubt the same will be said about this review. So why bother? Why should I bother writing, and why should you bother reading? If forced to choose, you should skip this review and read the book.
What follows could be a very brief review. Here goes: Read this book and then spread the bad news in it as quickly and extensively as possible, for the future of the country is at stake.
Whoa, you say. The subtitle only promises to explain a process still underway. There is no past tense to be found. Therefore, there must still be plenty of time to reverse both the corruption and the undermining.
Maybe so, insofar as the culture is concerned; hence the importance of spreading the bad news quickly and extensively. Maybe not, insofar as the university is concerned; hence the reason that there is so much bad news to spread.
If only UC-Berkeley Chancellor Clark Kerr of 1960s fame had it right then—and now. Better than half a century ago, meaning some time during those relatively innocent and far less subversive days of the sixties, the chancellor who coined the term “multiversity” joked that he was doing his job so long as he provided “parking for the faculty, sex for the students and sports for the alumni.”
Little could Kerr have known how complicated things would get in the 21st century. Parking remains a problem, as it always has been and always will be. But sex and sports are completely out of control on our college campuses. And then there is the ever-metastisizing multi-diversity university that has benefited from the diversions of sex and sports. Little could Kerr have known just how diverse the multiversity would become.
So just who is being deluded by the “diversity delusion?” Surely not its perpetrators. They know full well what they have been doing. And thanks to those who have been deluded, they have succeeded all too well, thank you.
Who then are the deluded? Two prime groups spring immediately to mind: state legislators and unsuspecting parents. Neither seems to have had much of an idea as to what has been happening in—and to—our institutions of higher education. If they did, legislative hearings and action would be front page news across the country. So would reports of steep declines in applications for admission to our colleges and universities.
But nothing of either sort has transpired. Our legislatures remain silent, and our college, especially our elite colleges, remain full. There are three possible explanations for this seemingly stable, if clearly troubling, state of affairs: 1) People outside of academia don’t know what’s been going on; 2) they may or may not know, but don’t care; 3) they know and approve.
Heather Mac Donald has written this book with the first group primarily in mind. Her hope is that once readers become undeluded about the “diversity delusion” they will care and ultimately act not just to rein it in, but to destroy the entire apparatus and the ideology that undergirds it. That hope may itself be delusional. But as G. K. Chesterton once put it, “what is hope if not hoping when everything is hopeless, or it’s no virtue at all.”
Ms. Mac Donald is also in full possession of another virtue, a virtue that is in perilously short supply these days. That would be the virtue of courage. Admittedly, this virtue is always in short supply, but today it is especially wanting among college administrators.
There are so many examples of cowardly behavior in these pages that Ms. Mac Donald might be excused for abandoning all hope. But let’s let Yale President Peter Salovey stand in—or at least grovel—as Exhibit A, while hoping that Ms. Mac Donald’s hope proves to be something other than entirely hopeless.
Ms. Mac Donald recalls the infamous 2015 verbal pummeling of Yale Professors Nicholas and Erika Chistakis over the latter’s email cautioning against any student overreaction to Halloween costumes. Instead of standing by his faculty, Salovey groveled before his students, while praising their courage and promising to meet their demands.
There are only two explanations for Salovey’s behavior. Either he has deluded himself into thinking that his “neurasthenic” (Ms. Mac Donald’s word) students were right or he acted in a cowardly fashion. Neither explanation is exactly laudatory.
What is laudatory is this courageous book. It could have been even more courageous, but only if Ms. Mac Donald had written it while serving as an untenured faculty member, instead of holding the position of Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Still, she has written a no-holds-barred attack on the modern American university, where the absence of courage is only the tip of a very large and menacing iceberg. She exposes the gargantuan diversity bureaucracy. She details the appalling fraud of affirmative action and the negative impact of “mismatch” on black college students. She savages the idiocy and ferocity of campus sexual politics and the “campus sex management industry,” where libertinism and Victorianism parade hand in hand.
The section on gender is an especially must read. Here she takes on the alleged campus rape crisis. Having abandoned all pretense of in loco parentis, not to mention any notion of male-female differences, colleges have found themselves dealing with a rape crisis? Or do they? Are one in five college females actually raped? If so, parents should be rushing to colleges to rescue their daughters—or refusing to sign tuition checks in the first place.
And if there is no actual crisis? What then? Well, maybe it isn’t so much a case of that-night rape as it is of next day—or next month—regret. Or as one coed conceded, maybe it was something called “rapey rape,” as opposed to the real thing.
All of this is not to excuse boorish male behavior. It’s only to contend, as Ms. Mac Donald does, that the sexual revolution on the American campus has been a boon to boorish boys and would be men, whose pursuits are all too real, if quite unrelated to politics. In Mac Donald-speak, the “guys who push themselves on women at keggers are after one thing only, and it’s not a reinstatement of the patriarchy.”
For Ms. Mac Donald, as should be the case for all of us, it all comes down to individual behavior, both in and out of the classroom. But all talk about behavior, especially good behavior, whether the matter at hand is study habits or other habits, is verboten in this day of political correctness, identity politics, and the diversity delusion.
The same goes for individual responsibility or for any emphasis of the individualism inherent in the American founding. Ms. Mac Donald is surely right that we are “cultivating” students who lack any understanding of our founding. Instead, for decades now American students have been told that their country is “systemically racist and unjust.” The result is a “nauseating sense of entitlement,” which in turn has invited students to “sucker punch ideological foes.” Ms. Mac Donald is nothing if not direct and confrontational. And why not? After all, the deluders are not playing games. Instead they are about the serious business of carrying out a “profound delegitimation of the American polity.”
To borrow a bit from the story of the American founding, it might be instructive to compare the modern diversity campaign to the Stamp Act. Colonists immediately rose up against it, and not simply because of the tax, but also because they saw it as an “entering wedge,” a foot in the door. Better to resist right away and stop it, rather than wait to see what might come next.
So, too, was the diversity campaign an entering wedge in its infancy. But there were no counter campaigns at the outset. Nor have there been such campaigns any time since then. And today? Today it is a monster that has long been corrupting our universities and undermining out culture. Trimming and taming it is not the answer. It must be stopped and uprooted. Otherwise, its perpetrators and their ideological progeny will eventually impose what Ms. Mac Donald calls a “soft totalitarianism” on not just our colleges and universities, but on our entire culture. It’s high time, maybe even past time, for many Paul Reveres to spread the bad news about what’s already here.
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