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Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus.

Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. Dinesh D'Souza. Free Press, 19.95. If you live in a cave and have missed the fuss about "political correctness" on campus, this book will bring you up to speed. The author, an alumnus of Dartmouth College and the Reagan White House, describes with clarity and fair-mindedness the recent disputes at six elite universities. In D'Souza's view, the common thread in the fights over the Western canon at Stanford, free expression at Michigan, race-based faculty hiring at Duke, and a number of other conflicts is what he calls the victims' revolution."

D'Souza adduces some disturbing evidence in support of his thesis that misguided efforts to compensate for past injustice have contributed to a harsh climate of intolerance and intimidation. In some extreme cases, blind pursuit of "diversity" has caused administrators to adopt grotesquely disparate sets of admissions standards for different racial groups. These policies usually don't help their intended beneficiaries, since unqualified blacks and Hispanics are admitted even when there is little hope that they will be able to do the work demanded of them.

D'Souza makes a compelling case against affirmative action as it is practiced at American universities like Berkeley. Where he overreaches, in my opinion, is in blaming preferential treatment for causing bigotry. D'Souza thinks the recent spate of racial incidents on progressive northern campuses is actually a backlash by white students against quotas. Many students-and not only white ones--make an argument that group preferences are unjust, and many more who don't want to speak publicly against them object in private. But D'Souza doesn't muster any plausible evidence that students seething with resentment at the unfairness of affirmative action are the same ones burning crosses and daubing graffiti. In some cases, like that of David Duke, affirmative action becomes a pretext for expressions of racism. But the bigotry itself almost certainly has deeper roots.

D'Souza ends his book with several proposals for reform, the most promising of which is to replace race-based admissions with affirmative action based on financial need. Giving some preference to students who have overcome economic disadvantage (but who are qualified enough to survive academically) would do much to foster real diversity, without the inequity and stigma that attach to discrimination based on race.
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Author:Weisberg, Jacob
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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