Serpent chasing tail

The title of the paper: Diversity and Educational Benefits: Moving Beyond Self-Reported Questionnaire Data. Here’s the abstract:

Effects of ethnic/racial diversity among students and faculty on cognitive growth of undergraduate students are estimated via a series of hierarchical linear and multinomial logistic regression models. Using objective measures of compositional, curricular, and interactional diversity based on actuarial course enrollment records of over 6,000 students at a public research university, the study finds no patterns of positive correlation with objective measures of cumulative academic achievement (i.e., final graduating GPA, GRE/GMAT test scores, graduate school enrollment) net of academic preparation at college entry and socio-demographic background, and with or without accounting for academic major, college curricular experience, and financial aid. Results are consistent with student self-assessed level of critical thinking skills after graduation, but not with self-assessed level of understanding of racial and cultural issues, both affective outcomes showing a positive correlation with curricular diversity. As the findings contradict most of the higher education literature on survey-based cognitive benefits of ethnic/racial diversity, the study calls for use of objective measures to advance the research in this area.

John Rosenberg translates:

If I’m not mistaken, this says that “diversity” does nothing to improve what students learn, as measured by objective criteria, except for their self-assessed “understanding of racial and cultural issues.”

In other words, “diversity” helps students understand … “diversity.”

Now there’s nothing wrong with “understanding of racial and cultural issues,” so long as it’s an actual understanding rather than the rote regurgitation of the talking points demanded by the Perpetually Aggrieved, but let’s not pretend that its effect is extensible beyond its own little sphere: no amount of cultural sensitivity will make someone a better engineer.


  1. Francis W. Porretto »

    6 December 2007 · 3:55 pm

    Nor will feminist airplanes be allowed to defy the laws of physics, simply because they were designed by feminist engineers.

  2. Brett »

    6 December 2007 · 11:46 pm

    During the time I worked at a university, many efforts were made to “increase diversity” among the student body. This meant, of course, increases in the number of people of different races from the United States, as the large group of international students were never featured in promotional materials or marketing campaigns.

    We probably did increase the diversity of our incoming freshman classes, but I never saw the same effort to help those students succeed once here. August’s move-in rainbow became May’s graduation vanilla smoothie. But since admissions and marketing are departments that care only about how things appear to high school seniors and their parents, the monochromatic shift didn’t seem to bother folks that much.

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