Downside of `Multiculturalism' Cited: Former Students Assail Stanford as `Anti-Western'

Article excerpt

Two veterans of the culture wars at Stanford University have written a book exposing the downside of higher education's rush to embrace a new mission known as "multiculturalism."

Although multiculturalism - a product of the 1980s - was supposed to unify diverse campus cultures and races, the mission became, in the authors' view, a "war on Western civilization" that continues today.

The national experiment in multiculturalism and the pursuit of institutional diversity for diversity's sake led by Stanford also brought the disintegration of academic standards, they contend.

"It's completely anti-intel-

lectual," said Peter A. Thiel, co-author with David O. Sacks of "The Diversity Myth: `Multiculturalism' and the Politics of Intolerance at Stanford." "Multiculturalism is about studying less, not more. It has nothing to do with other cultures and no stress on foreign languages. It's anti-Western, not non-Western."

Mr. Thiel was a student at Stanford when the university embarked on its campaign to transform the curriculum and campus life in the name of "diversity."

It all began with CIV - Cultures, Ideas, and Values - a new multicultural curriculum that in 1988 replaced Western Culture as a freshman requirement.

"As its name hinted," the authors write, "the new course was based on relativist notions of cultural parity, with a mandated emphasis on race, gender, and class."

It also eliminated a core reading list of great books of Western civilization to add works by "women, minorities and persons of color"; works introducing issues of race, sex and class; and works of "non-European provenance."

Although the new curriculum continued to draw primarily from Western culture, its thrust was to denounce the West as racist, sexist and classist.

It led, too, to such courses as an upper-level history seminar on "Black Hair as Culture and History" that addressed how black hair "has interacted with the black presence in this country, and how it has played a role in the evolution of black society."

"The absurd race consciousness of `Black Hair' is a testament to the extremes to which multiculturalism has taken the curriculum," the authors write.

"I really think a lot of this is not being driven by students," Mr. Thiel said. "Look at gender studies. Four or five people a year at Stanford major in it. There are about 250 majors in economics, yet you have as many classes in gender studies as economics. To use an economic analogy, this isn't driven by student demand but by the supply of tenured radicals on the faculty."

"The reason we talk about the diversity myth is that there's no diversity when people look different but think alike," he said. …