Diversity Instead of Freedom

American students are convinced that diversity is only possible where freedom of expression is restricted. What happens when belonging to a group is more important than exchanging arguments?

According to a new study by the Gallup Institute and the Knight Foundation, 53 percent of American students think diversity and inclusion are more important than freedom of expression. Anyone who thinks freedom of expression is a form of diversity, or at least a prerequisite for it, should take note that most American students see it differently. For the first time, the majority of students believe that diversity, or, as it is also called in the study, a positive environment, can only be achieved by restricting freedom of speech. Some 37 percent of respondents think it is acceptable to shout down speakers to this end. This now happens quite frequently at American universities and has thoroughly poisoned the atmosphere.

Instead of exchanging arguments, it is all about belonging to a group and having better morals. According to this logic, the persuasiveness of an argument is closely linked to whether its author comes from Bielefeld or Kampala. The restriction of freedom of expression is for a good purpose, to be sure. It is supposed to protect against racism and hate speech. But in practice the demand goes well beyond protection from the hostility of those of an extremist background and challenges people who simply afford themselves the luxury of a different opinion. For example, the sociologist Nicholas Christakis at Yale was shouted down because his wife had expressed doubts about the dress code for Halloween costumes. At Evergreen State University, biology professor Bret Weinstein was forced to resign over accusations of racism because he refused a mandatory day of absence for white professors.

He now presents himself on Twitter as a researcher in exile, where he informs people that it is almost impossible to talk openly about the theory of evolution at American universities. This results in bizarre parallels. Turkey recently banned evolution in school textbooks on religious grounds. In the U.S., there is a challenge being raised by a trend in gender theory that has become dominant, which says that the body and gender should have nothing to do with each other. Meanwhile in Frankfurt, Cologne and Bremen, speakers with unaccommodating views are being ordered to move on. Diversity here means a moral arms race, a right to exclude and suppress unpleasant realities. It is not intellectual diversity in any case.

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