In the 1980s, Stanford University launched what its President Donald Kennedy described as a great experiment in multiculturalism. The experiment would transform campus life, leading to curricular innovation, new codes for student conduct, the celebration and institutionalization of diversity, changes in dorm life, even a refocusing of campus ministries. The Diversity Myth offers an insider s account of what multiculturalism has meant at a major university, and of what it will mean for America.
The Diversity Myth is divided into two parts. Part I, The New Academy (chapters 1-4) explores how multiculturalism has transformed the curriculum and extracurricular campus life. Part II, The New Culture, consisting of chapters 5-8, broadens the focus to consider multiculturalism as a social, political and cultural phenomenon.
Chapter 1, The West Rejected, opens with an account of Stanford s debate over Western Culture. Ostensibly, this debate centered on the merits of a core reading list for a series of required freshman courses, but it soon evolved into much more. With the notorious chant, Hey hey, ho ho, Western Culture s got to go!, Stanford s activists attacked the entire culture studied in that courseand demanded a drastic overhaul of the universitys mission.
By 1990, the Western Culture courses had been replaced by a series of new CIV (Culture, Ideas and Values) tracks. But it is highly debatable whether CIV actually increased the diversity of the curriculum: The course still primarily drew from Western culture, but its purpose had shifted to denouncing the West as racist, sexist, and classist. By eliminating the core reading list, some of Stanford s more radical professors effectively were given free rein to canonize their own ideological views.
Chapter 2, Multiculturalism: A New Word for a New World, describes how multiculturalism filled the vacuum created by the elimination of the West. What is multiculturalism? The term is used in several different and contradictory ways. On the one hand, multiculturalism is typically defined as a celebration of diversity or as cultural relativismthe belief that no culture may use its standards to judge another. But these explanations are incomplete: Not all kinds of diversity are celebrated, and the relativist rhetoric is never applied to the condemned West. Multiculturalism is also guided by a narrower, though less often articulated, set of values and judgments.
At Stanford, the values that inform multiculturalism are those of 1960s activists, who use the ideological biases of that era to calibrate and evaluate cultural differences. Typically, for example, racial differences are given great cultural importance, while religious differences are completely ignored. But the consequences of multiculturalism is more (or perhaps less) than left-liberalism: In practice, the new multicultural community simply has resulted in the most stifling conformity imaginableand this is what is so transparently at odds with all the rhetoric about diversity.
Chapter 3, Educating Generation X, explores what the new multicultural curriculum has meant in areas beyond Western Culture. The loss of objective academic standards has had a number of serious consequences. Grade inflation is rampant and a number of classes are primarily therapeutic, designed to boost students self-esteem. For other instructors, trendiness has become the guiding principle, with classes studying popular TV shows, rock groups, or cartoon strips. In other contexts, the ideological components of multiculturalism predominate, as instructors focus on social victims and radical political activism.
But when everything is equally important, then nothing really matters. The cumulative effect of all these ephemeral studies is that the curricula are ultimately empty. The real danger is not that students will become left-wing disciples of multiculturalism, but that they will become disenchanted with learning altogether. The nihilism and apathy of Generation X are not that surprising, when one considers the vacuity of much of what they have been offered.
Chapter 4, The Engineering of Souls, moves beyond the classroom to consider the extracurricular components of multiculturalism -- how it has been implemented in dorm life, in conduct rules, and other university programs. Two contradictory themes soon emerge. On the one hand, there is a theology of liberation as the university encourages freedom from traditional Western morality -- a bias in favor of sexual exploration, a bias against the Judeo-Christian tradition. On the other hand, however, there is a new Puritanism, with the campus hysteria over date rape -- a phenomenon that has been greatly exaggerated -- leading to more unjustified restrictions of student liberties. Perhaps the best way of reconciling these two disparate themes is to recognize that, broadly defined, both involve the same anti-Western animus that drove Stanford s curriculum revisions.
Chapter 5, Stages of Oppression, looks in some depth at the claims of oppression that are so central to multiculturalism. The multicultural community postulates differences between groups and similarities within groups -- so that members of minorities (racial, sexual, etc.) -- are all different from the majority in exactly the same way. This sort of diversity ignores the enormous diversity of individuals.
More specifically, the differences between minorities and majorities are conceived in terms of the oppression of the former by the latter. Minorities are all alike, according to multiculturalists, because they share a culture of being oppressed. Thus, racial identity is conceived in relation to institutional racism, gender identity in relation to sexism, and gay and lesbian identity in relation to homophobia. One of the interesting -- and problematic -- corollaries of the culture of victimization is that, if the oppressions ever ended, then the specific minority identities would also disappear. Multiculturalism would cease to exist.
Chapter 6, Welcome to Salem, considers another dimension of the oppressed identities. An identity of victimization is not a Platonic essence, standing on its own; it is relational. For every victim, there must be a victimizer. And therefore the culture of multiculturalism (the multiculture) must, in order to reaffirm victimized identities, hunt down and eliminate its oppressors. This elimination of oppression does not occur once and for all, but must be periodically reenacted, to reinforce victimized identities that are threatened with dissipation over time.
It is in this context that one should understand the witch hunts against people who are politically incorrect. These witch hunts are not an incidental, but a necessary, component of the multiculture. Although conservative students and faculty, and white males more generally, are frequent targets, they are not the only ones. Multiculturalism also goes after people who would seem to be natural allies. Liberals who do not toe the party line in particular contexts, and minority students who do not agree with all multicultural claims, can become victims of multiculturalism. The multiculture must have enemies to denounce, and sometimes even very implausible one will do.
Chapter 7, The Egalitarian Elite, describes how the multicultural experiment gradually came to an end at Stanford. It did not end from the inside, as all checks and balances (not to mention objective standards) had been gradually eroded. But the end came from the outside, in the form of a debate over indirect costs and federal subsidization of research at Stanford University. Many of these indirect costs had been used to pay for Stanfords multicultural experiment; as government auditors uncovered a pattern of waste and abuse, they started to cut funding and the cultural revolution on campus showed to a halt.
One of the remarkable features of the cuts in indirect costs involved the arrogant attitude of Stanfords educational leaders. They could not believe that they had done anything wrong and they could not tolerate the idea that others might be able to review their activities. Platos paradoxical questionand who will guard the guardians?may not be as outdated as some believe.
Chapter 8, Calibans Kingdom, concludes with some thoughts on the aftermath of multiculturalism at Stanford, and the prospects for America. Multiculturalism has failed on campus, but it is unclear whether Stanford can go back to the pasta great deal of damage has been done by the multicultural bulldozer, and it may take many years to undo the legacy. For America, the warning seems equally clear: the multicultural culture of complaint will result in a culture of blame. As people turn on one another, real solutions to problems will recede further and further away.
It is not clear there is a political or cultural solution to the multicultural crisis. Perhaps the most promising avenues lie outside the politico-cultural realm, and will start on an individual, rather than a collective level. Individuals will have to decideon their own, with help from no one elseto forsake the ethos of resentment and anger that is so central to the multiculture. Only then will the curtain fall on the multicultural theater of diversity, in which the many actors play carefully assigned roles but rarely are able to say or do what they think is right.
This engaging saga of Stanfords experiment in multiculturalism compellingly draws readers into the nightmare world of social engineering in practice. The authors convincingly argue that the campaign to impose multiculturalism amounts to nothing less than a war on Western Civilization and, beyond it, a war on the very idea of civilization. Even those who do not agree with all of the authors views, will find The Diversity Myth a frightening and thought-provoking accountand, above all, a timely reminder that the educational collapse of our most exclusive universities must be of deep concern to us all.
ELIZABETH FOX-GENOVESE, Elénore Raoul Professor of Humanities, Emory University
The story of The Diversity Myth is based at Stanford, but this book is larger than that. As a Harvard graduate, I recognize my own school in these pages, and quite likely you will too. By detailing the current corruption of our academic ideals with a larger audience, David Sacks and Peter Thiel have hastened the much-needed and long-awaited restoration of higher education.
CHRISTOPHER COX, former United States Congressman
Years ago, William Buckley, a very young Yale graduate, authored the seminal critique of higher education in America, God and Man at Yale. Sacks and Thiel, very young Stanford graduates, have now written the sequel. The Diversity Myth confirms the continuing decline of intellectual integrity in our finest colleges and universities and lays bare what must be corrected if higher education is ever to achieve the great potential of which it is capable.
MARTIN ANDERSON, Author, Imposters in the Temple: The Decline of the American University
The Diversity Myth is a devastating indictment of how a great university came close to being destroyed. Well-written and concise, the book lays out the difference between those seeking to understand other cultures and those seeking to eviscerate our own. It is must reading for anyone who values the discourse of civility over the politics of intellectual intolerance and zealotry.
PHILIP MERRILL, President and Publisher, Washingtonian
A great read and an important story, this book will not just cause alarm about our educational institutions. It will inspire renewal.
WILLIAM KRISTOL, Editor and Publisher, The Weekly Standard
There is no higher duty for intellectuals than to denounce incipient totalitarianism wherever they observe it. Some of its symptoms are present at Stanford. In The Diversity Myth, two recent Stanford graduates document the situation there with a thoroughness and depth of analysis that should help stiffen the spine of university administrators.
RENÉ GIRARD, Professor of Comparative Literature, Stanford University
If you want to find out what went wrong at Stanford University, read The Diversity Myth. Theres hardly a better source than this book for learning why multiculturalism on campus cannot work.
LINDA CHAVEZ, former Director, U. S. Commission on Civil Rights
The Diversity Myth reveals the intellectual corruption that captured one of our nations premier universities. But the fact that these authors demonstrated the wisdom and the will to expose such conditions gives hope for at least some of its graduates.
EDWIN W. MEESE, III, former United States Attorney General
The Diversity Myth charges that politicized classes and student activities have led to an ironic intolerance on campusintolerance of all things Western.
I was blessed to have attended Stanford during a political calm between the violence of 1969-71 and the more subtle intimidation discussed in The Diversity Myth. Even then, Stanfords political culture was reflexively left, and dissenters could expect rhetorical flailings. But, there were no more taboos on expression than existed in the society beyond. Somehow that changed, and with it the character of the institution. This book explains why.
TIM W. FERGUSON, Assistant Managing Editor, Forbes
People who affect to believe that political correctness is merely a phantom of the conservative imagination are fond of saying that that same few isolated incidents are endlessly recycled. . . . Sacks and Thiel present a series of such incidents, less widely reported than the uproar over Stanfords curriculum but more groubling because they show how far those in charge of universities are willing to go to intrude on students privacy and their freedom of conscience.
LINDA SEEBACH, Editorial Page Editor, Rocky Mountain News
In a just-released, hard-hitting book, The Diversity Myth, co-authors and Stanford Alumni David sacks and Peter Thiel expose the radicalization in curriculum and student activities at Stanford University in recent years. Beyond the pervasive politicization of the curriculum, Sacks and Thiel also detail what they say has been a sharp degradation of academic standards at Stanford.
Although this book is by no means the first effort to isolate and analyze the multiculturalist virus infecting American higher education, it may well be the best. . . . The Diversity Myth is both an alarming account of a great institutions flirtation with self-destruction and a withering exposé of academic arrogance and folly.