All students learn more when “diverse” voices participate in class discussions, say proponents of racial and ethnic preferences. But minority students don’t necessarily want to speak for their groups. At the University of Colorado’s School of Education, a “school and society” class created a special section restricted to minority students and students who are the first in their families to attend college. Because the class has a long waiting list, that means some students won’t get in based on the color of their skin.

School of Education Dean Lorrie Shepard said the section requirements meet the state’s interpretation of federal law because they are not strictly race-based. In addition to minority students, the class includes those of any race who are the first in their family to go to college.

The course itself is open to all students, she said, and therefore is not discriminatory. But the section for underrepresented students was developed as an experiment last year after students of color found they were continually called on to represent a minority perspective, she said.

The class curriculum covers issues of race, gender and culture.

“Often a student of color would find they were the only non-white person in a given section and … very often their class would turn to them whenever an issue of race was discussed,” Shepard said. “They’d be asked if they agreed with a certain perspective or to defend a position. They’d be put on the spot in ways that made it feel like a hostile environment.”

. . . But for those who choose it, she said, it provides an “important intellectual opportunity” and a “much safer and open environment to be able to agree and disagree with each other without having to speak for their whole group.”

Being asked their opinions created a “hostile” environment?

Via Discriminations.

About Joanne


  1. Being asked their opinions created a “hostile” environment?

    In high school a friend of mine said that her history teacher “picked on the girls in the class”. As I happen to be a girl, and had the same teacher (albeit in a different section), I asked her what he was doing since I had seen no evidence of this. Her response was that he called on the girls to answer questions in class. Upon further questioning on my part, she admitted that the girls in question (including herself) would never answer any queries the teacher put forth voluntarily, so to get them to participate he had no choice but to call on them.

    So I’m not surprised by the claim in the article that being asked to give an opinion can be considered harrassment by the quieter students, even though I personally think a teacher has to do that to ensure participation.

  2. This article is germane to the topic, I think. IMO it’s much more complex than just a solicitation of opinion.

  3. Yeah, it’s a germane article.

    “I envision white sheets despite the fact that these are my allies and we are all quite polite and sane and sanitized up here where the towers are ivory.”

    It must suck to be her.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Whoever invented “diversity” should be in the stocks right along with the inventor of “traffic calming” with baskets of free, rotten fruits available.

  5. Kristin says:

    If “diversity” and different viewpoints add to learning, doesn’t this class lose out because of the particular viewpoints NOT expressed by the kids that weren’t allowed in? Or does the opinion of the white kid with a college-educated parent not count for some reason? Do kids from different backgrounds/races not benefit from listening to each other?

    I sympathize for the kids that feel “on the spot” but that can also be viewed as a valuable chance to give a little insight to listening ears.

  6. Clancy, you and the writer of the article in question really need to pull your heads out.

  7. Foobarista says:

    I wonder if this is analogous to being abroad and being asked your opinion about this and that “as an American”. When I was living overseas, I always found this uncomfortable, since I often disagreed with the “typical American” line they were fishing for (and it was usually asked in the context of fishing for an answer that they thought they knew). I also was uncomfortable with the fact that I was being asked as a sort of “representative sample” and not as an individual. It felt oddly dehumanizing.

    OTOH, this sort of “representing” seems to be the whole point of the classic “diversity argument”.

  8. I think we should lighten up a bit here. It is a single experimental class and other sections of that class are open to all. I’d say, run the class, evaluate it and see what kind of information we get. We make pregress only by sticking our necks out, like the turtle.

  9. I got so tired in college of going to a professor’s office hours to discuss a paper and having him (always ‘him’) assume I was interested in doing a ‘feminist take’ on the issue. A gay friend of mine in grad school assured me it was far worse for him: every professor assumed that he did ‘queer theory’ and wanted to write every single paper from that perspective. My dh, now a professor, is equally sick of the department trying to hire women by advertising for someone specializing in ‘feminist philosophy’ (because it’s impermissible to just look for a female candidate).

  10. My point being that PC-ness builds its own ghettoes.

  11. Even as an adult this is the case, no matter how much many “spreading awareness” lectures the know-nothings give us at every “community” thing, and on NPR.
    As an arab-american, I certainly have no desire to be the latest “mascot” of the left who want us to be oppressed, so that they can pretend to “liberate” us. Of course we’re supposed to thank them for this.
    They are so blinkered by a narrow set of objective (most of which are not well thought out,) that virtually none of them know anything about the rest of the world, let alone the fate of people outside of their fair trade co-op.

    The think that the US should stop trying to liberate my cousins, aunts, and uncles in the Near East because of non-existent arab-american, or american muslim “oppression.”

    The quest for survival for social minorities in the arab world (the Christians, Jews, Druze, Secularists, Democrats, Socialists…) has been hard enough. For all time from the islamic expansion, to the Ottoman Empire, to the Civil wars and dictatorial consolodations of power – this has only abated for brief periods in history. It’s why so many of us are here.

    If the left keep this up they are only helping the jihadis of the world finish us off.

    Allright – that’s my off-topic rant…

  12. I found this blog though another on line journaler on Live Journal and had to make my 2 cents be known.

    I’m a WASP (white anglo-saxon prostitant) majority, but also a minority in that I’m gay.

    I went through public school, one of the better districts where I live so I had the fortune of good teachers and people who cared, rare I know, but still.

    I do think the idea is a great one, but I’d caution how one perfoms this experiment and how the questions are asked in getting people to participate in class discussions. Not all of us are extroverts and it takes skill to draw those introverts into a discussion, but in this case, when a question is asked of a minority, the tact should be to ask them how they feel, see or would do something, rather than try to speak collectively for their race, culture etc. Sometimes one has to ask the question in that manner, but I’d caution that how that is presented can make or break the answer one gets back.

    I’d never try to ask the question in such a way as to fish for a certain answer. It never works in my opinion.

    Now, I’m out and proud of my gayness and do not mind talking about it, but I don’t necessarily speak for the whole gay community, but I do speak for myself and what I do know about the community at large as a general statement. Nothing more.

    I do think this idea is definately worth exploring and also to add what someone said earlier, get rid of the PC crap and the whole thing will, I think, become much easier to do.

  13. Whne i was in the 2nd class of women to attned my Ivy League alma mater, I always had some old prof. call on me for the “female” opinion. Some girls hated this and would stammer, but I used the opportunity to gas on about my ideas at great length. It’s an open mike, people! Kids are such babies these days.

  14. Well, I love Kate’s attitude.

    But as John says, nobody can really speak for the group. Even being a member of the group doesn’t automatically mean you know much about it. Everybody is an expert on their own experiences, of course, but nothing else should be assumed.

    My black former coworker, who is from Kentucky, asked me once if living conditions for black folks in the Mississippi Delta are really that bad. Oh yes, I told her; I told her about those conditions, and about the history of slavery in that specific region and how that ties into how things are there now. She told me then that her father’s family were sharecroppers there who snuck out in the middle of the night and moved “north” to Kentucky. No one really talked about it and she didn’t know what sharecropping meant, so I told her all about that and about why her father’s family had to leave in secret. (And were right to do so.)

    So here is one significant part of the black experience in America that I, white person X, knew more about than my friend, black person Y. When you get down to individuals you really have no idea what they can or cannot contribute to a discussion.

  15. Richard Brandshaft says:

    I am old enough to remember Republicans fighting every anti-discrimination law. And of course to a Republican, everyone else’s lawsuits are frivolous. The word “hypocrites” comes to mind. Exactly how are the Republicans hurt by this class? Or are the Republicans so concerned about someone else being hurt that they are rushing to the defense with uncharacteristic altruism? If so, who are they defending? It couldn’t be a bunch of knee jerk conservatives filing a lawsuit against something they consider liberal just to be destructive and cause a lot of unnecessary trouble and expense. Could it?

    “…asked your opinion about this and that “as an American”. When I was living overseas, I always found this uncomfortable…”

    I such a situation, I say, “I can’t give the typical American opinion, but my opinion is…” or, “Most Americans disagree with me, but my opinion is…” I can’t read my listener’s minds, but it seems to work.

  16. Actually, my friend, it was the southern democrats who tried to block civil rights legislation in the 50s and 60s. Northern democrats allied with republicans to get the legislation passed.

    And just who posed this as a republican vs. the rest issue? Could it be a certain Richard Brandshaft?

    Look, a lot of people like to talk just to hear themselves. They would thrive in any sort of class environment that gave them a voice.

    Others are insecure, and feel the need to attend a school where everyone looks the same as themselves. All female schools. All particular ethnic schools. etc.

    This class looks like neo-segregation coming in the back door.

  17. Richard Brandshaft says:

    “Actually, my friend, it was the southern democrats who tried to block civil rights legislation in the 50s and 60s.”

    Correct. That was the initial alignment. Eventually, high profile segregationists turned Republican.

  18. Modern day segregationists are overwhelmingly black, and democrat.

    Have you gone to a large university lately, and observed the black students cafeteria, the black students dormitory, the black student center, black studies department, etc etc? Republicans did not segregate black students in that way.

    Likewise the neosegregation of all black private and charter elementary schools etc. All black education all the way through college, medical school etc. These are not republican initiatives. Strictly speaking, since integration, there has not been a need to maintain these historically black schools. But republicans donate their hard earned money to these causes just like democrats.

    Successful black businessmen often hire blacks overwhelmingly, far above their representation in the population. A white person could not segregate his workforce in this manner. But it is done voluntarily.

    Blacks could go to any church they like, but often group together in all black churches. Blacks who have an economic choice of neighborhoods often choose neighborhoods that are predominately black. Successful blacks often move to communities like Atlanta or Washington DC where blacks perform most civic duties.

    Republicans don’t make them do all this, and much more that comprises neo-segregation.

  19. An interesting observation spurred by the comment that students don’t want to feel they are a spokesman for their PC group:
    The very existence of this phenomenon suggests that racial preferences are not only indirectly, but directly fomenting single-mindedness amongst minority groups to align their opinions with the “correct” or expected political stance. It strikes me as particularly devious how this manages to keep nonrepresentative race/group spokesmen like Jessie Jackson/NOW in political power.

  20. Richard Brandshaft wrote:

    Eventually, high profile segregationists turned Republican.

    Got any names? The only “high profile” segregationists still in the political game are in the Democratic Party.

  21. Cousin Dave says:

    Name three, Richard. George Wallace, Lester Maddox, and J.B. Stoner (to name a few) were Democrats to the end. In the South in the ’60s, Republicans were considered Northern elitists and the Republican Party was a non-factor in Southern politics.

    On the other hand, we have one former KKK officer in the Senate, and he’s a Democrat, and the liberal press has nothing to say about it.

  22. Bill Leonard says:

    Has anybody asked whether any of this “diversity” for its own sake really means much of anything to anyone, particularly in situations where the real lack of diversity is not in ethnicities, or the “under-represtented,” but in a total lack of diversity of opinion?

    Beyond that, I would concede that the first or second black in an all-WASP workplace might have new perspectives to offer, should he/she be so inclined, but the 200th? And exactly what is “minority” or “underrepresented” biology, or engineering, or physics?

    Methinks it’s often not just the king who has no clothes, but the whole court.

  23. Years ago I was part of a debate on affirmative action and was the only Asian/Oriental in a group on stage of about 5 or 6 profs and bureaucrats, with an audience of about 85% white and 15% Afro-Am. At one point the guy with the pro aff. action point of view stood up and said, that I just didn’t understand what it feels like to be in the minority.

    I raised my eyebrows, smiled, and said, Look around you. I seem to be the only one on this podium who isn’t white, wasn’t born in the USA, and wasn’t in favor of affirmative discrimination.

    But I know, I know. Asians aren’t “minorities” unless it suits the Left.