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The Standard Reader

From the January 27, 2003 issue: Tom Paulin's anti-Semitic prose poem and Peter Wood's new book on diversity.

Jan 27, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 19 • By J. BOTTUM
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Of course, if this is the case, then why has it come to dominate so many of our most important institutions? Wood addresses this question mainly in terms of diversity's psychological appeal, but another answer lies in the institutions themselves. Diversity, which elevates the bean-counting arts by turning specific numerical distributions into the highest good, gained a foothold in the administrative world long before it had any intellectual currency. University officials were fighting to preserve diversity before they had decided why it mattered. Only later was the term adopted by journalists and academics.

This suggests a depressing fact about our situation. The dominant ideas of culture used to emerge through art, philosophical debate, and political struggle. Now, it seems, they are propounded by the associate dean of admissions, in conjunction with the assistant vice president for multicultural affairs, who works upstairs in the department of human resources.

--Matt Feeney