Len Niehoff is Professor from Practice at the University of Michigan Law School, where he teaches courses in civil procedure, ethics, evidence, First Amendment, law & theology, and media law. He writes regularly in all of these fields. He is also Of Counsel to the Honigman law firm. The opinions expressed here are his own.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Diversity's Evidences

Today, Inside Higher Ed ran a short piece that I wrote musing on the benefits of having students from diverse backgrounds (and therefore with diverse perspectives) in the classroom.  If you are interested, you can find it here.  My comments drew some of the usual criticisms, from some of the usual critics, including this one: my argument indulges in stereotyping because it assumes that, for example, African Americans have a particular and unitary perspective on things.  This criticism, however, rests upon a profound misunderstanding of my argument.  The point is not that the educational experience is enriched by the presence of women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans,  those with diabilities, members of the LGBT community, and countless other categories of human beings because there is a specific perspective or viewpoint that we can attribute to the members of each of those groups.  That is, in my judgment, ridiculous.  Rather, the point is that these characteristics are highly self-definitional for most of us; that the world interacts with us differently because of those characteristics; and that this shapes the experiences we have, and, therefore, the perspectives we acquire along the way.  Far from stereotyping, this argument assumes a rich array of possibilities; but it also assumes--because it is true--that things like gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation matter.  I believe that the logic, social reality, and psychological truth of this argument is irrefutable.  Perhaps that is why its critics so often choose to refute a different argument--one that I have never made and that has nothing to do with the Supreme Court's reasoning in Grutter.    

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