Ethnic Studies

The Christian Science Monitor, July 2, 1998 | Go to article overview

Ethnic Studies


Regret Ward Connerly of the University of California is stepping into another controversy. Mr. Connerly, an African-American, was a major force in the university's campaign to end racial preferences in admissions and hiring policies.

That effort to rein in affirmative action culminated in a state ballot issue that largely excluded race as a factor in framing state policy.

His new project, now in its earliest stages, is directed at the ethnic studies programs common in California's public universities, as at colleges throughout the country.

This is sensitive ground. These academic programs exist, as many affirmative-action programs exist, to adjust a historical imbalance. There's little doubt that through most of their history American institutions of learning shortchanged the injustices suffered, and the contributions made, by African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and native Americans.

Ethnic-studies courses that have multiplied in recent decades were an inevitable, and necessary, correction. And nonwhites aren't the only groups represented: Jewish studies, Irish studies, and many others flourish.

Connerly sees two dangers: (1) that these studies typically draw students from the ethnic background being studied, and thus tend to resegregate campuses, and (2) that the courses are of questionable academic rigor. …

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