A Good Argument For Diversity

Donald A. Downs, a professor of many things at the University of Wisconsin (politics, law, journalism), makes a good argument for diversity in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Some of you will have noticed that here I’m not putting “diversity” in quotes (though I just did, to mark the word). That’s because the particular form of diversity that Prof. Downs calls for — bringing ROTC back to elite campuses — is real, not superficial and simply skin deep. Universities and the military, he writes, “embrace different cultures, procedures, and purposes,” and thus a “military presence can contribute to the intellectual and moral diversity on the campus.”

The military mind contrasts sharply with the conventional wisdom and assumptions of most of today’s college students. In his classic 1957 book, The Soldier and the State, Samuel P. Huntington portrayed the “military mind” as predicated on “conservative realism.” At that time, conservative realism was not a partisan concept, because military leadership strove to be nonpartisan, and the partisanship that did exist was fairly evenly distributed between Republicans and Democrats. (Today military leaders are much more likely to be Republicans than in the past — yet another sign of the broader gap between the military and universities.) According to Huntington, the military mind believes that the nation-state is necessary to deal with the darker aspects of human nature and political communities: “Man has elements of goodness, strength, and reason, but he is also evil, weak, and irrational. The man of the military ethic is essentially the man of Hobbes.”

That logic is an alternative to the progressivism that dominates many campuses today, and to the plethora of programs dedicated to world and global citizenship as opposed to national citizenship. Liberal education requires exposing students to the fullest array of worldviews, including the military mind and conservative realism.

Then there is the matter of lifestyle. ROTC students must act according to special codes of discipline and conduct. They are often required to wake up before dawn, and although they seek out fun, my interviews with cadets reveal that they tend to define themselves primarily in terms of duty to their country. Patriotic nonmilitary students are typically more committed to self-advancement and individual rights. ROTC students, by contrast, provide a concrete example of a duty-based outlook.

“Challenging the basic assumptions of any institution — be it a country or a college — ,” Prof. Downs concludes, “is itself a way to improve that institution.”

Thus, although there are good public policy reasons for expanding ROTC — “In 2006 the Army ROTC came up 450 officers short of achieving its national goal for commissions,” Prof. Downs bases his argument on what he sees as the much needed diversity a military presence on campuses would bring to the campuses themselves. “ROTC and military-strategic studies,” he argues, “enhance the civic and liberal education of nonmilitary students.”

This argument, as DISCRIMINATIONS readers well know, is identical to the justification for the preferential treatment extended to preferred minorities in order to promote pigmentary “diversity”: the presence on campus of students who are “different” because they come from “different” cultures (color, in this view, is a badge of culture) is necessary to the education of the privileged whites who are thereby exposed to them. (See, for three of many examples, “Diversity” As Exploitation, “Diversity” As Exploitation II, and “Diversity” Is As Diversity Does(n’t).)

There is another similarity between the diversity rationale for a military presence on campuses and the diversity rationale for “underrepresented” minorities: both of those groups have been (minorities) or are (the military) stigmatized and even despised. For example, as Prof. Downs notes,

The executive committee of the Student Senate of the Union Theological Seminary at Columbia declared that it opposed ROTC’s return to campus because of “the violence of militarism. … Some of us are pacifists, and others of us simply reject the U.S. military in its current manifestation.” Students and faculty members have characterized the struggle at Columbia as a clash between two cultures and mentalities….

Although the situation is more complex than many critics and apologists maintain, it is nonetheless clear that a wide gap divides the military and many major institutions of higher education. As David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, noted in Kathy Roth-Douquet’s and Frank Schaeffer’s book, AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes From the Military — and How It Hurts Our Country (Collins, 2006), “Here in academia, my colleagues seem determined to turn American soldiers into an out-of-sight, out-of-mind servant class who are expected to do their duty and keep their mouths shut.”

If universities actually believed their diversity mantra, they would not only welcome ROTC on campus; they would beat the bushes for military-minded applicants and offer them preferential admissions, scholarships, and an array of classes in military studies. Of course, if they really believed what they say about diversity, they wouldn’t limit their current diversity efforts to skin color.

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