All posts filed under: Diversity Debate

Diversity and the Concert Hall

Orchestras have had a rough time lately. Rising deficits, inadequate facilities, internal financial squabbles, and an overall lack of interest from the general public have provided more than their share of hurdles for these venerable institutions. Now, in addition to these looming obstacles, orchestras are being faced with a whole new challenge: the call to diversify their programs with more music written by women and minority composers. To get ahead of this cultural trend, several institutions have started initiatives to synthetically bolster the number of performed works by composers in these aforementioned groups. In February, the BBC Proms announced plans for fully half of all new commissions to be granted to women composers by 2022. Earlier in March, the website ICareIfYouListen responded to a tweet accusing them of unconscious bias by reaffirming their commitment to “equitable programming” with a primary interest in “promoting the work of historically underrepresented and marginalized artists.” The website also detailed its apparently already existing policy of “turning down 100% of concert reviews and album reviews that feature works by all white men, with the only exceptions being portrait …

Diversity and Inclusion vs Free Speech on Campus

There will always exist a tension between the freedom of the individual to say and do as they please and the freedom of the individual to be protected from harm. Over the past few years, colleges campuses around the world, but particularly in the United States, have struggled to reconcile these two protections, particularly in light of diversity and inclusion agendas. Finding the line between freedom of speech (or freedom of expression, which may be used interchangeably in this piece) and freedom from harm relies heavily on how we understand and define the two concepts. While the First Amendment to the US Constitution applies to citizens’ rights in relation to their government, it serves as a good starting point for a working definition of free speech. The First Amendment as we know it today is a concise revision of an original draft by James Madison. The part of the original draft that refers to free speech (including assembly and press), reads: The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to …

Silicon Valley and the ABCs of Diversity

When discussing diversity, the loudest voices are the ones which treat diversity as intrinsically valuable. Diversity is viewed as something of which more is always better, an idea flying in the face of our intuitions and best practice. And when it comes to diversity among people, diversity of skills and knowledge is often conflated with demographic diversity. We can watch these debates unfold live at Alphabet Inc. subsidiaries like Google and YouTube, as Google faces a lawsuit and YouTube stands accused of severe discrimination against White and Asian males. First, let’s run through a thought experiment just to get the principles down: You’re in an alien museum, on an alien world. You can only save 100 items. You do not know anything about the items, or the world, except what you might be able to infer by looking at them. How do you determine what to take? You’re in a museum on Earth, in a country that’s very foreign to you. You can only save 100 items. You do not know anything about the items, …

Diversity: A Managerial Ideology

Diversity is the reigning social and political ideal of our age. It is the public ideology of the country’s most powerful state and business institutions. To many it is the essence of American national identity and, in one of the favorite phrases of President Barack Obama, ‘who we are’ as a country. Rather than simply a recognition of difference, diversity is a cultural, economic, and political project to both generate difference and to manage it. This project traces its ancestry back to the black civil rights and women’s movements of the 1950s-70s. First blacks and then women organized and pressured state and society with demands for equality. Struggles took place in nearly every social arena, from housing to public accommodations to religion to sport. Conflict was especially pointed in employment and education, the country’s key channels for upward social mobility. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 stands as the signature legal culmination of those demands, and its Titles IV and VII set forth society’s new norms on ‘equal opportunity’ in both arenas. By ensuring equal …

Sex and STEM: Stubborn Facts and Stubborn Ideologies

Many academics in the modern world seem obsessed with the sex difference in engagement with science, technology, mathematics, and engineering (STEM) fields. Or rather they are obsessed with the fact that there are more men than women in some of these fields. There is particular concern about the lack of women in prestigious STEM fields, such as Ph.D.-level faculty positions, but surprisingly there is no concern about the under-representation of women in lower-level technical jobs, such as car mechanics or plumbing. The concerned academics have been especially effective in convincing others, or at least intimidating them, into accepting their preferred interpretations regarding the source of these sex differences (as illustrated in the Google memo debate). These interpretations are not surprising and they include sexism, stereotype threat, and more recently implicit bias and microaggression. Each of these ideas has gained traction in the mainstream media and in many academic circles but their scientific foundations are shaky. In this essay, we’ll provide some background on the STEM controversy and consider multiple factors that might contribute to these …

Don’t Abandon the King Standard

Over the past few years, but especially since Donald Trump’s election, we have witnessed a vanishing common ground on issues of race between Left and Right. Presently, the race debate in America is not over marginal issues or their nuances but over first principles; apart from a general (and correct) belief that racism is bad, few shared values bind people together. Instead, we have what Thomas Sowell once called, in a slightly different context, “a conflict of visions.” What is racism, and how should it be defined? How prevalent is it in our society, and what are its effects? How should our institutions attempt to dismantle it? On these and many other questions disagreement is fierce. The media reaction to the recent episode, during which Trump was reported to have referred to Haiti and other African countries as “shitholes,” is indicative of widening disagreements about how we talk about race. Even in such an apparently straightforward case as this, a furious debate erupted over the proper way to interpret Trump’s remarks. On the Left, writers …

The Diversity Ideology

Editor’s note: this piece is the first in an ongoing series on the subject of diversity. If you would like to join the diversity debate please comment below or send a submission to pitch@quillette.com. The merits of diversity are much discussed these days. It is increasingly accepted that the more diverse society is perforce the stronger society, especially if it is a liberal democracy. And why shouldn’t that be? In many different contexts, from ecosystems to financial portfolios, greater diversity leads to greater robustness and sustainability. But one response to growing diversity has been the rise of an accompanying ‘diversity ideology’ antithetical to much of what helps modern societies flourish. Many of these societies freely acknowledge and justly celebrate their ethnic and religious diversity. But ideologies come with ideologues, the most visible of which in this case are diversity consultants in business, people with titles such as Vice-President for Diversity or professors of various ethnic and religious studies in academia, and political pressure groups. Such people tend to assume a list of cultures (subject to change …