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Is Diversity for Its Own Sake Good for Education?

At my school, Seattle Pacific University, dozens of students have called on the administration to hire more persons of color for full-time faculty positions in order to promote diversity and to “engage the culture, change the world.” To make their point, such students have constructed a collage of the university’s full-time faculty: 182 whites and 23 persons of color. My peers argue that this racial imbalance represents a lack of diversity and thus warrants racial preferences when hiring professors. But what they overlook is that diversity is only an instrumental good. Variety in racial representation, socioeconomic status, and religion is only good insofar as it brings about an intrinsic good: something that is good in and of itself. Many activists at liberal arts colleges—including my own—fail to recognize this in standing for social justice. 

While there are other significant problems with a view that promotes affirmative action, this argument fails because its fundamental assumption that diversity is a natural and necessary good for higher education is false. The purpose of higher education is to cultivate intellectual virtues among students so that they may become rational thinkers who make well-informed decisions. True educators challenge students to think outside the box, outside their comfort zones to distinguish good reasons from bad reasons, good arguments from bad arguments, good decisions from bad decisions. From this ability of independent thinking, students become good citizens.

My opponents claim that diversity—namely, diverse perspectives—always necessarily leads to good education. However, a professor may have a diverse perspective and completely miseducate students. For example, SPU could hire a neo-Nazi; this professor would certainly have a minority worldview and bring a diverse perspective to the university. Yet I have no doubt that he would be an awful professor: an awful mentor, an awful role-model, and an awful educator. But I admit: he has a diverse perspective.

Diversity has an important role in education, but assuming that it is intrinsically good is incorrect. Diversity is not a virtue; it does not have its own ability to be conducive to the flourishing of human beings. Variation in perspective is only valuable insofar as it promotes another virtue: the ability to rationally judge differing views.

The activists around me are wrong to advocate for racial preferences in hiring persons of color for new faculty on the grounds that diversity always brings about better education. Good educators provide insight, challenge students' intellects, and foster an environment that welcomes them to further develop their rational ability. Not one of those—or any other task of the educator—requires a certain measure of racial diversity. Though being in a racial minority may indicate the capability of providing more and better insight to certain issues, there is no necessary connection between racial diversity and good education. So, rather than preferring that certain racial groups be more represented among faculty, students should desire faculty most holistically qualified to educate.

Briana Chui is a senior at Seattle Pacific University, studying political science, philosophy, and psychology, and she has specific interests in contemporary political theory and in American constitutional law. In addition to her studies, Briana is involved at SPU as a resident advisor and within multiple student organizations including the Ethics Bowl debate team, the Political Union, and AEI Executive Council. In her spare time, Briana enjoys reading, rock-climbing, hiking, and talking about Star Wars.


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