Several days ago, Intellectual Takeout highlighted the plight of a college professor who is being persecuted for questioning the validity of the college’s “diversity” program. Students marched on the president’s office demanding that the professor be fired; the president, kowtowing before the student bullies, issued a statement affirming the “diversity” program that the professor had questioned; and the professor was hauled into the president’s office to be warned of the consequences of such dissident behavior.

In such a scenario, should we sympathize with the bullies, the coward, or the dissident? Is a college in which bullies browbeat a coward into bullying a colleague, one to which we would encourage people to go?

And what of “diversity”? Was there any tolerance of a diversity of opinion in the response of the bully and the coward to the voice of the non-conformist?

And what is “diversity” anyway? This was the very question that the professor had asked and which, apparently, he was not allowed to ask?

Let’s ask the question and, more to the point, let’s answer it.

Diversity is engagement with the fullness of human experience as passed down for millennia in the Great Books and the Great Ideas and the Great Discussion. This Discussion has animated our understanding of ourselves and each other across numerous cultures across numerous generations. This is diversity.

Those who demand “diversity” have banished the Great Books, in all their rich diversity of perspectives. They reject the Great Ideas because they don’t conform to their own monomaniacal ideology of narcissistic self-expression. They refuse the Great Discussion because that would mean giving a platform to those with whom they disagree, be it great philosophers or humble professors. Needless to say, advocates of this form of “diversity” have not read the Great Books; they have no idea about the Great Ideas; and they have never been part of the Great Discussion. They don’t judge from the perspective of knowledge of the things that they reject, but of ignorance of them. Like other ideologues who have preceded them in the history of which they are oblivious, they are happy to burn the books they haven’t read, ban the ideas they don’t understand, and silence the discussion of which they have never been a part. Like other book burners and idea banners and dissident persecutors, they need to be resisted if they refuse the invitation to be reasonable.

What is diversity? It is knowing the ideas of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Gandhi, and Nietzsche, all of whom offer us diverse perspectives on how to understand the cosmos of which we are a part and to which, whether we like it or not, we are subject.

What is diversity? It is seeing the goodness, truth and beauty of ourselves, our world and our place within it reflected back to us in the great narrative stories that hold up a mirror to reality. Diversity is knowing Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens and Dostoyevsky.

Where is such diversity to be found in most modern colleges and universities? The answer is that it is not to be found, at least not in the core curriculum, because true diversity has been sacrificed in the name of “diversity”! And this is, of course, an example of the sort of newspeak and doublethink which George Orwell warns us is the consequence of placing ideological intolerance before the freedom that comes from true diversity.

[Image Credit: David Middlecamp-SLO Tribune]