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Noel S. Williams / February 9, 2016

Diversity: Our Greatest Strength or Biggest Challenge?

Even though relatively homogeneous societies in Scandinavia are portrayed as beacons of social equity, our country is much more diverse and dynamic. President Obama has stated one of our nation’s greatest strengths is our rich diversity. Open-mindedness also requires acknowledging that it presents challenges.

In a milieu where free speech is constrained by political correctness, the suggestion that diversity is problematic is anathema to the academic and governmental intelligentsia. Social scientists who tout the inherent benefits of diversity are hypocritically homogeneous: the ratio of liberal to conservative social psychologists in academia is huge. Buoyed by bandwagon bias, they produce research that proselytizes the unerring benefits of diversity, and provides pretense for pandering politicians trying to broaden their coalitions with government largesse.

Their propaganda has been effective. Variations of the theme “diversity is our greatest strength” have become axiomatic, a priori truths in social discourse. But there are challenges: from fire departments to air traffic controllers, standards are sacrificed before the altar of diversity.

Even the military has become highly politicized in pursing gender diversity. This can be summarized as the “Dempsey Rule,” which asserts that if some standard is too hard for women, then it’s too hard. Remember all the hullabaloo about two women graduating Army Ranger School? Well, there is plenty of evidence it was predetermined by generals succumbing to political pressure to ensure that women graduated. Women who at first failed tests were allowed a redo and given favorable treatment not afforded the men.

In the Marines, there’s intense political pressure to lower the bar, but that could never happen in the great, awe-inspiring SEAL teams, right? Wrong! Adm. Brian Losey, while commander of the Navy SEALs, recommended the elite branch open to women. But this great patriot offered contorted logic, saying there are “no insurmountable obstacles to integrating women” while admitting that they’re more prone to injuries and probably won’t enhance SEAL team effectiveness.

Navy SEALs require speed, strength and stamina that nature has not divvied up equally. There are definitely exceptions, but not enough to justify paradigm shifts embedded in politically motivated social experiments that eviscerate morale. I suppose the SEALs could be re-programmed from their high-octane, confrontational style to treat their women comrades with a lighter touch. But why on earth would we want that? Its cliché, but favored by nature: women are generally more nurturing, making better care givers than warriors. In many professions they are more effective; why would they want to lower their own standards? They are often the social glue injecting civility into society. What’s more important?

Examples of diversity’s challenges abound. Consider the candidate who, after failing a fire department running test six times, was given a seventh chance. Imagine if SEAL candidates were given seven chances to complete their training. The huge attrition rate would drop precipitously and the teams would not be so elite. Diversity is challenging, but the bar is high for a reason — our safety and security are at stake.

In behalf of the diversity imperative we are also potentially jeopardizing our safety in the air. For example, qualified air traffic controllers were passed over in favor of some wishy-washy testing procedure to identify diverse candidates who would then be trained — at exorbitant costs — to the level of the originally overlooked candidates.

Recently, an engineering executive at Twitter said that diversity is good, but we can’t lower the bar. Seems a sound statement; after all, if diversity is such a strength, it should raise the bar. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to apologize, saying “I realize that we have blind spots, myself included.” Not long after he left the company under dubious circumstances.

Even liberal Hollywood cannot escape the wrath of the diversity police who called for a boycott of the “lily white” Oscars. This is relatively inconsequential, but illustrates that in this ethos complaints about a lack of diversity sometimes veil under-achievement. I don’t know much about movies — I tend to favor the action flicks that some effete cultural elite assigned one star because it’s insensitive to someone — but I heard that minorities have been proportionately represented in Oscar nominations in the past. Diversity is challenging, but they should appreciate the high bar.

Diversity of perspectives from qualified participants can produce better outcomes; but diversity to fill arbitrary, politically driven quotas can be fraught with performance problems. Diversity has the potential to be our greatest strength, but it can also be our greatest challenge.

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