The Conformity of Diversity

Very few ideas have come to dominate higher education more completely in the past decade or so than “diversity and inclusion.” No university I know of doubts the value of “diversity and inclusion” in any of its several meanings, and all have undertaken extensive administrative, personnel-oriented, and programmatic initiatives on its behalf. It is widely thought to be one of the unquestioned, and unquestionable, intrinsic goods of higher education–perhaps even one of its preeminent goods to rival the pursuit of knowledge itself. Conformity with the orthodoxy of “diversity and inclusion” is today expected and, in many cases, enforced through various accrediting and other administrative mechanisms.

A new book of essays puts the intrinsic worth of “diversity” into question and debate: Diversity, Conformity, and Conscience in Contemporary America (Rowman & Littlefield), edited by Bradley C.S. Watson, and with contributions by some of our Center friends including Matt Franck and Phillip Muñoz.

“America is a nation that celebrates diversity and freedom of conscience. Yet, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, democratic times often demand conformity. Nowadays, conformity might be enforced in the name of diversity itself, and go so far as to infringe on the rights of conscience, expression, association, and religious freedom. Americans have recently been confronted by this paradox in various ways, from federal health care mandates, to campus speech codes, to consumer boycotts, to public intimidation, to vexatious litigation, to private corporations dismissing employees for expressing certain political views. In this book, Bradley C. S. Watson brings together leading thinkers from a variety of disciplines to examine the manner and extent to which conformity is demanded by contemporary American law and social practice. Contributors also consider the long-term results of such demands for conformity for the health—and even survival—of a constitutional republic.”

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