A review of Diane Ravitch’s The Language Police in The New Pantagruel brings out the nature of “celebrating diversity” in school textbooks: since almost anything one might assert, suggest or mention would be more favorable to one group or culture than another, the only things that can be asserted, suggested or mentioned are things like elderly marathoners and the personal problems of immigrants. “Diversity” always turns out to mean “sameness and irrelevance.” Since the same problems appear in college textbooks, choice of which normally lies with individual instructors, the issue isn’t formal political pressure so much as the voluntary decision of our whole intellectual class to prefer multiculti to anything intellectual.
The issue of tNP also includes a longish ramble through recent discussions among Christian neocons regarding “participating in the public conversation” and “engaging the culture.” The piece mentions a book by Princeton professor Jeffrey Stout on the place of “religious discourse” in a “secular society” (one in which common religious commitments cannot be assumed) with an overriding commitment to “talking things through.” Here it should be obvious, although the author doesn’t make the point explicitly, that if the only authoritative principle is “talking things through,” then issues can be resolved only if they have already been settled by definitions of rationality, efficiency, human rights and whatnot before the talk even gets going, so the talk in fact functions merely as a placebo. A society ostensibly based on discussion and not authoritative substantive principles is of necessity one in which discussion is irrelevant but everyone pretends otherwise. Why is that kind of “public conversation” worth participating in?