Thursday, January 12, 2012

Is Diversity Dead?

Maybe the better title to this should be "Was Diversity Ever Alive." When people think about diversity it is usually racial. To me, that "effort" at diversity was always a curious one. Most faculty I have been around really wanted the least diverse diversity candidates possible. By that I mean African American who went to fancy law schools, had middle class or professional parents. etc. But, I've covered this before and to the extent racial diversity is a goal, I see no changes.

Now, though, I realize I have misusing the term "intellectual diversity." In the past I and others have used the term to mean ideological diversity. It is obvious to most that most law schools are not ideologically diverse. There are few conservatives, perhaps fewer libertarians, and almost no leftists. Instead we have the (not) liberals. Most have an agenda (like I do) that is self-referential. I think of them a psycho-capitalists. Not psycho as in crazy but people who are rational maximizers of whatever makes them feel good. And, what makes them feel good is to be around people like themselves. Call it narcsi-pyscho-captalitism.

There is little hope for ideological diversity.

Intellectual diversity is something different. I could mean different levels of intellectualism -- different levels of pure curiosity and a willingness to go with ideas where ever they may lead -- law schools are not diverse (and not not diverse at a high level)

On the other hand, if intellectual diversity means different interests, it is true that some people really get into antitrust and some love teaching contracts with all of its history and puzzles. The problem is that for most law professors, the breadth of intellectual diversity seems to extend to different facets of law. To put it a bit too bluntly, except for knowing about non law things at a Jeopardy level, they don't seem to know much. Ever heard the subjects of conversation at a law faculty party? I can assure you the range is teensy. Just ask the non lawyer spouses who refuse to go.

I'd add one more element to this. This lack of this version of intellectual diversity seems most evident among younger faculty. It's a given that that vast majority of law professors are graduates of a handful of schools. Yet somewhere along the line it seems like those schools stopped teaching or stopped recruiting people a broad range of interests.

In the olden days of law teaching ,when I began, there were characters and eccentrics and people from fancy schools who could talk knowledgably about all kinds of topics. Now those fancy schools seem to select their students from a very narrow range of intellectual potential and then suck whatever potential might have been there right out of them. Some, thankfully, survive going to those schools but many do not.

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