Friday, June 29, 2007

Afterschool segregation

In City Journal, John Leo condemns segregated graduations. At UCLA, he explains, there are separate graduation ceremonies for black, gay, Filipino, and other groups. Leo hits the point exactly when he writes, "Promoters of ethnic and racial graduations often talk about the strong sense of community that they favor. But it is a sense of community based on blood, a dubious and historically dangerous organizing principle." That race-based ceremonies are a terrible idea for all sorts of reasons is so obvious that the only thing that could possibly be sustaining them is that once an institution's in place, there's always a certain amount of inertia.

Where Leo misses the point is in lumping in the "women’s studies" and "Chicana/Chicano studies" graduations with the identity-graduations pool. These are not identities, but fields of study. A Swedish man could, if he had double-majored, attend both ceremonies in good faith. It's fine for a large university to split up celebrations by department. If more women choose to study women and more Chicanos choose to study Chicanos, does that make these fields inherently silly? Is studying France any more respectable because of the number of non-French people doing it?

The problem with many conservative arguments about education is that they get a couple things so right, then segue into predictable and poorly-thought-out complains about all that is or implies political correctness. Segregated commencement alone cannot be wrong; all of those newfangled "cultural studies" classes must also be condemned.

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