In Praise of Ideological Diversity

July 4, 2022 Updated: July 4, 2022

Commentary

We need more diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the ideological dimension. This should hold true everywhere, but especially on the nation’s campuses. DEI has been applied to a whole host of criteria that are, strictly speaking, orthogonal, not to say entirely irrelevant, to the main mission of higher education, namely, the creation, discussion, and promotion of ideas, particularly to the next generation.

The problem is that for the overwhelming majority of universities, professors who espouse conservative or libertarian perspectives are as scarce as proverbial hen’s teeth. Every brand of leftism, including so-called “progressivism,” Marxism, and feminism, is fully represented there. Black studies and queer studies have pride of place. There are disciplines such as sociology, political science, history, literature, philosophy, and law where hardly ever, not to say never, a discouraging word is heard to scholars of this ilk. It’s time, it’s past time, that ideological—intellectual—diversity be widely implemented.

A good start would be to ban those infamous DEI statements that are bruited about for hiring and promotion in all too many colleges. They resemble nothing so much as McCarthyite loyalty oaths, albeit, now, to an entirely different drummer. In their place, at least until the professorial numbers are more evenly balanced, should be statements that give affirmative action to scholars who espouse and promote conservative and libertarian perspectives.

What would be the benefit of such a proposal? Let us allow the John Stuart Mill of “On Liberty” to inform us of them:

“He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. That is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of; else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty.”

The argument against affirmative action for conservatives and libertarians is that it’s hard to implement. Who would decide? Upon which criteria? But it works well enough for the left, at present. These challenges can be overcome; their failures will be as nothing compared to present imbalances.

What good is an education where students are informed of the thinking of John Rawls, but not of Robert Nozick? Of Karl Marx, but not Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek? Of Paul Samuelson and Paul Krugman but not Milton Friedman and Gary Becker. Of Paul Ehrlich but not Julian Simon. Of Ibram X. Kendi but not Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. Indeed, it’s entirely possible to go through four years of supposed higher education without having so much as even heard of any of the latter mentioned of these pairs.

Such students are being offered, at best, only one-half an education. If they aren’t even acquainted with scholars espousing these other viewpoints, how can they be prepared to defend their own perspectives? In a word, they can’t.

Thus, those on the left side of the spectrum are cheating even their own students. It’s high time that they ceased and desisted from imposing this fraudulent one-sided education on all and sundry.

On the other hand, if all they want to do is convert the next generation into unthinking ignorant automatons, then they would be best advised to continue down their present path. But then they should have the honesty and decency to admit they’re attempting something other than true education.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Walter Block
Walter E. Block is the chair in economics at Loyola University in New Orleans. He is also an adjunct scholar at the Mises Institute and the Hoover Institute.