Re: What is the importance of diversity in higher education?

Amy Gutmann: Diversity in itself, I think, is not valuable. I like to point out that there’s no particular reason for somebody to have admitted me to a college because I happen to be left-handed and have blond hair and blue eyes, and that could add to the diversity at some colleges. The importance of diversity is to the extent that there are aspects of people’s backgrounds – whether it be racial or socio-economic, and aspects of people’s perspectives on life . . . so religious diversity – that add to the educational enterprise. So if I go to school and I’m surrounded by people who are like me, I’m going to learn less than if I’m surrounded by people who challenge me intellectually, who come from backgrounds that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to actually know firsthand. That’s gonna make a huge difference in my education. Now when I say that, I have to say that I’ve experienced it as well. My education has been as rich as it has as much by the people I’ve come in contact with who have come from worlds that are so foreign to my own as it is by the wonderful teachers that I’ve had. And my own education . . . The reason my father was such an inspiration to me is he was so different from everyone else . . . than every other adult I had ever met in rural New York.

Recorded on: 7/3/07

 

Diversity in itself, I think, is not valuable.

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