Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Not knowing when you lost 

A debate at faculty senate last night revolved around a student request for receiving credit or a waiver for a "diversity course" (scroll down to the sub-section of that title from our general education program) for students that go on study abroad programs. The consensus that carried the day was that no, learning about another culture by living in it isn't learning about diversity. Some faculty were perplexed because they would think living in another culture is per se multicultural. One faculty member replied by comparing her students to another set, both of whom went into inner-city Detroit on a social work project. Her people "got out into the community" while those from the other school treated it as summer camp and stayed separate from the others. Another faculty member said the only way to learn about diversity was to take courses from professors from "historically oppressed" groups. The despise they held for Western Europeans was palpable.

Multiculturalism was originally the goal, but we lost this battle long ago, when the wording of the program was changed from "multicultural, gender and minority" courses to "diversity". In an assessment document for the diversity program here (scroll down to bottom third), the goals of the program include this:

Students will identify unjust, de-humanizing, and oppressive policies and practices of individuals, authorities, and social institutions within the dominant culture and their impact on the treatment of various disenfranchised groups.
That's not inquiry. That's enforcing a worldview at a public university. It includes this as a criterion:
The course must promote respect for human dignity and differences by methods that employ and strengthen the cognitive, affective, and critical powers of students by impartial and critical examination of facts, beliefs, interpretations of facts, and arguments, and by other ways of knowing.
I have no idea what the hell that means, and I rather insist that you don't either. Again, this is from an ASSESSMENT document. How do you measure this???

UPDATE: Cold Spring Shops asks whether disenfranchised groups would "include Aristotelians in the English Department?"