Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Is Diversity Bad?

It has become ever more popular to proclaim multiculturalism, racial and ethnic diversity, as America's strength. Schools teach our children that the "melting pot" that helped our country grow from a rag tag group of colonies to the strongest nation on Earth is wrong. Political leaders stand high upon their soap boxes and proclaim that our differences are our strengths.

But a study by Robert Putnam suggests just the opposite. He interviewed 30,000 people across the country. What he found might startle the most "progressive" among us. Our diversity may, in fact, be our weakness.
the greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work on community projects.

The study also found that neighbors in diverse communities trust each other half as much as they do in communities made up of similar ethnicities.

Advocates of multiculturalism have largely ignored the study, which was released in August, 2007. However, the director of Interfaith Youth Core, an international nonprofit that promotes interfaith cooperation, Eboo Patel ponders, "how to best engage the fact of diversity in a way that builds social capital and increases civic engagement."
A few months ago, I read about a 21st century version of Hull House – a school in Decatur, Georgia that is so diverse the weekly newsletter is published in six languages, and still many parents can't read it.

Diversity is a loaded term these days. It implies racial and ethnic differences but ignores differences in ideas and backgrounds. America has always been a diverse nation. Whether it was Protestants and Catholics living side-by-side or black and white and though we've had our share of missteps, Americans have always strived to prove their mantra, that all people are created equal.

The success of America's society is not due to our differences, but due to our similarities. It's our ability to find common ground despite all our differences that makes us great. But none of this is possible without the ability to communicate.

It is common language that allows protestant and catholic to unite. It is a common language that allows Muslim children and Jewish children to attend the same classes. It is a common language that opens new markets to business. It is a common language that can unite us all.

But the multiculturalist believes different. They herald a mish mash of people unable to clearly communicate as some grand example of diversity.

If the multiculturalist truly wants to get people more civically involved, they would start by erasing the communication barriers that keep them separate. The way to do that is to not print materials in hundreds of languages and make available hundreds of interpreters to translate every word spoken. It is to teach them one common language.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for the day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for lifetime.

No comments: