Unpopular political opinions part of diversity too

November 20, 2005

Teachers have to deal with a wide range of kids. A student might be the child of illegal immigrants or have two daddies.

Children come from all kinds of social, economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds. A teacher who believes “diversity is perversity” might have trouble checking his biases at the door.

Washington State University student Ed Swan certainly has trouble keeping his mouth shut. He let his views on diversity be known in a variety of ways.

Aside from scribbling “diversity is perversity” in a textbook, he failed four times to meet the College of Education’s benchmarks for understanding the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation and privilege in America.

College officials want prospective teachers to understand such complexities.

“We want to make sure a teacher appreciates and values human diversity and others’ varied talents and perspectives,” said Judy Mitchell, dean of education.

Swan almost got booted out of the education program. Then the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education out of Philadelphia stepped in to remind Washington State that diversity comes in many forms.

One of the most important is intellectual diversity.

If the university casts students out for having unpopular opinions, what does it say about the institution’s regard for varied perspectives?

Conservatives have made a lot of hay out of Swan’s case in recent months.  However, he’s not much of a martyr.

The university saw the light. Swan is back in class, free to grumble his thoughts on diversity and political correctness.

Ironically, all university officials wanted to do — in their own stumbling way — was to defend people’s right to be different.

That’s what diversity is all about.

Swan certainly defended the right to be different for himself. Would he defend that right for others or dismiss it as perversity?

Swan can say what he wants about diversity, but a commitment to respecting the differences in others ultimately worked to his advantage.

Schools: Washington State University Cases: Washington State University: Use of Dispositions Theory to Enforce Ideological Orthodoxy