Meaningful Diversity Requires Alternative Viewpoints

Skillful Means in Engaged Action Requires Well Articulated Alternative Points of View

When an organization lacks members who can articulate alternative points of view in an intelligent manner, the organization’s members tend to discount those perspectives. This is why folks at the New York Times may think their opinions are unbiased and mainstream, and why folks at Fox News can think they are “fair and balanced.”    Conversely, understanding and appreciating alternative points of view is essential to being an effective advocate. —

Law Professor Jonathan H. Adler comments

There is a growing body of research documenting the negative effects a lack of viewpoint diversity can have upon academic inquiry and institutions of higher learning. I believe this is a particular problem for law schools as understanding and appreciating alternative points of view is essential to being an effective advocate. As I wrote several weeks back:

The lack of ideological diversity is a particular problem for law schools as it leaves many law students unexposed to perspectives and arguments with which they will have to contend in the practice of law. Most legal academics are well to the left of those whom law students will represent, as well as to the majority of judges before which they will practice. One need not agree with one’s client or a judge to be an effective advocate, but it is important to understand the perspective of the position one has to represent — as well as the perspective of the other side. The best legal advocates fully comprehend the strongest arguments for the other side and are able to present arguments that can appeal to decision-makers who may approach difficult legal questions from a perspective quite different from their own. On many issues, however, the perspectives of legal academics are relatively monolithic and reflect little understanding of … common right-of-center viewpoints.


The ability to present arguments that appeal to persons of different perspectives is almost the definition of an honest broker and an honest teacher of wisdom.  The quality described by Adler of the best legal advocates are also attributes to be desired of Dharma teachers.  The ability to craft arguments and discussion suited to the person(s) spoken to is a skillful means that is illustrated again and again in the sutras of of the early Buddhist cannon.

Political Diversity Provides More Direct Access to Diverse Viewpoints 

Assuming we accept diversity as essential in higher education, it would seem that we need at least as much political diversity as diversity with respect to race and ethnicity.  …  political diversity provides a more direct way of gaining access to different viewpoints than relying on race and ethnicity, which are at best proxies for viewpoints. Society as whole would benefit because citizens would learn not to reflexively dismiss viewpoints.

If indeed diversity is as important as all our university presidents, including my own, endlessly repeat, political and ideological diversity is at least as important as diversity measured by race and ethnicity. — Universities Should Be as Concerned with Political as with Racial Diversity 


“Politically-correct sociologists, on the other hand, enjoy certain privileges in a very politically conscious and liberal discipline . They can, for example, “paint caricature-like pictures based on the most extreme and irrational beliefs of those who differ from [their] ideologically without feeling any penalty for doing so,” and “can systematically misinterpret, misrepresent, or ignore research in such a manner as to sustain [their] political views and be confident that such misinterpretations . . . are unlikely to be recognized by [their] colleagues”.  —

The language used here “without feeling any penalty” and “confident that misinterpretations are unlikely to be recognized” is virtually identical to language used to describe White Privilege.

Law School Alumni much More Diverse than Faculty

The dean of a law school writes:

“it is a point of pride for the law school that we were cited in a recent academic study as unusual among prominent law schools for having “a near perfectly” even distribution of alumni on the left and the right.”

“I am not familiar with a comparable academic study that compares the political viewpoints of our faculty with other law faculties.”

FACT:  There is unrebutted evidence that law schools have a sharp tilt to  the political left.


Professor Jonathan H. Adler

Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Adler has written extensively on environmental policy.


“Political identity is fair game for hatred”: how Republicans and Democrats discriminate  by Ezra Klein and Alvin Chang on December 7, 2015

Diversity of critical thinking counter acts a “reasoning” that is little more than organized prejudice.   In general we we are much better detectors of the bias in others than for ourselves.

Does Reality Have a Liberal Bias?

The field had become a community in which political values and moral aims were shared, leading to an asymmetry in which studies that reinforced left-wing narratives had come to be disproportionately represented in the literature. And this was not, to quote Stephen Colbert, because “reality had a liberal bias”. It was because social psychology had a liberal bias.    … within the field, those on the left outnumbered those on the right by a ratio of about 10:1. So it meant that even if left-leaning and right-leaning scientists were equal in their bias, there would be at least ten times more research biased towards validating left-wing narratives than conservative narratives. Adding in the apparent double standards in the peer review process (where studies validating left-wing narratives seemed to be easier to publish) then the bias within the field could vastly exceed the ratio of 10:1. In other words, research was becoming an exercise in groupthink.

One area of stereotyping which is consistently found to be inaccurate are the stereotypes concerning political affiliation; right-wingers and left wingers tend to caricature each others personalities, most often negatively so.

Reactions to Jussim’s findings about the accuracy of stereotypes have varied on the scale between lukewarm and ice cold. At Stanford this year after giving a talk, an audience member articulated a position reflected by many within his field:
“Social psychologists should not be studying whether people are accurate in perceiving groups! They should be studying how situations create disadvantage.”

Jussim has heard this position over and over again. Not just from students, but also colleagues. One might find it surprising that psychology researchers would become so invested in shutting down research they find politically unbearable. But one shouldn’t be.

It is not uncommon for social psychologists to list “the promotion of social justice” as a research topic on their CVs, or on their university homepages. … Within the scientific community, the blending of science with political activism is far from being frowned upon. One only has to take a brief look at Twitter to see that scientists are often in practice of tweeting about “white privilege”, “women in STEM”, “structural disadvantage”, “affirmative action”, and “stereotypes”. For many scientists, the crusade to change the world is seen as part of one’s job description.



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