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Education should not be about diversity, equity and inclusion – Washington Times

Last week the renowned social psychologist Jonathan Haidt announced his resignation from his major professional association, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Why? Because the organization’s new diversity, equity and inclusion requirements conflict with his duty to teach the Truth.

More specifically, Mr. Haidt said he believes that the telos, i.e., the purpose and end goal of the university, is Truth. “The telos of a knife is to cut, the telos of medicine is to heal, and the telos of a university is truth,” he wrote.

In other words, professor Haidt rightly reminds us that education should be about facts, not feelings. You go to school to learn, not to lecture. College is about pursuing Truth, not protecting your opinions.

C.S. Lewis told us in “God in the Dock”: “Put first things first, and second things are thrown in for good measure. Put second things first, and you lose both first and second things.”

The Academy should be about first things, not second things. It should be about an exceptional curriculum rather than the common core. It should be more concerned with ethics than information and character more than careers. It should focus on how to acquire morality more so than merely earning more money. The truly educated person should be dedicated to pursuing Truth rather than simply being tolerant. Good education should be about first things and not be content with those that are second. To paraphrase Lewis again: When we can have a holiday at the beach, why in the world are we satisfied with making mud pies in the back alleys?

Implicit in Mr. Haidt’s resignation is that he understands education should be about promoting unity, not division. It’s called a “university” and not a “diversity” for a reason. Classical education — truly liberating education — is about the common cause of personal righteousness, not the divisiveness of our personal rights. Selflessness rather than self. The unum rather than the pluribus. Veritas and virtue rather than vindication and vengeance. It’s about finding what’s good rather than being satisfied with what seems safe.

As Lewis said, when we reverse the order and focus on second things, we get neither first nor second. Only by dying to self do any of us ever find our true identity. Who we are isn’t found in race or gender. It isn’t found in personal grievances or our narcissistic infatuation with self. We are neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, barbarian or Scythian. We are human beings, and selfless unity in the one who defined himself as the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, and the very incarnation of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, is the First Thing.

Today’s teachers do our next generation of leaders and, consequently, our country great harm by enabling young people to miss the first things by fixating on the second things like “diversity, equity and inclusion.” As Richard John Neuhaus warned, such ontological dyslexia, i.e., reversing the order of reality, only brings  “profound bigotry and anti-intellectualism and intolerance and illiberality of liberalism.” It brings cries of “microaggressions” and calls for “trigger warnings.” It runs from the debate rather than toward it. It leads to segregation rather than integration. Focusing on division rather than unity always results in resistance, retrenchment and revenge rather than what is right.

Mark Galli, formerly of Christianity Today, makes this point well: “The problem with identity politics goes even deeper than disunity. It encourages me to notice what is passing away while failing to notice the reality of what will last. Given human nature, [a fixation on] identity … seems to inevitably degenerate into judgmentalism and division. Identity based on common interest, experience, or even [gender or race] cannot enable the one thing that Jesus is most eager for us to do: Come together in unity in him. The fixation on diversity … has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups. … Identity liberalism has failed. National politics in healthy periods is not about ‘differences’; it is about commonality …”

Mr. Galli concludes: “As we keep reading the New Testament faithfully, this reality sinks into us more and more deeply. As much as we take pride in our many differences [i.e., diversity, equity and inclusion], we’ll keep coming back to the most amazing thing about each of us: We have died with Christ, and it is not we who live (with those various identities we’re so proud of) but Christ who lives in us. That’s our glory. That’s our identity. “

And that’s the Truth.

• Everett Piper (, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host. 

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