From the late historian Tony Judt’s The Memory Chalet:
“Undergraduates today can select from a swathe of identity studies: ‘gender studies,’ ‘women’s studies,’ ‘Asian-Pacific-American studies,’ and dozens of others. The shortcoming of all these para-academic programs is not that they concentrate on a given ethnic or geographical minority; it is that they encourage members of that minority to study themselves – thereby simultaneously negating the goals of a liberal education and reinforcing the sectarian and ghetto mentalities they purport to undermine” (202).
Here Judt aptly expresses a sentiment I have had often: that such programs, whether in the classroom or outside it, are counterproductive to the goal of integrated diversity. Rather than integrating minorities into their surrounding community, they reinforce the “minority” status that is so often accompanied by a low-level but embittering sense of victimhood which keeps us from transcending racial and cultural lines. Judt is right in saying this is inimical to true liberal education, for liberal education, properly understood, expands one’s view to appreciate the world around them, which has a wonderful variety of human experience, transcending what often are self-imposed boundaries of race and culture.