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Diversity: The Invention of a Concept - featuring Peter Wood

Recorded on March 26, 2003

Professor Wood's scholarly study of the evolution of the concept of "diversity" has resulted in an erudite, even-handed and fascinating critique of the diversity cliché.  This brilliant study is especially valuable now because the idea of diversity permeates almost every discussion of race in America.  The promotion of diversity is often the sole justification provided for racial preferences in student admissions and faculty hiring, government contracting, employment and business decisions, and many other areas of public life.  In the current Supreme Court cases challenging the University of Michigan's racial preference policies, the University rests its entire case on the argument that the promotion of "diversity" on campus is a "compelling" governmental interest. Just in time for the Supreme Court's oral argument in the Michigan racial preference cases, Wood's book explores the myth of diversity that purports to promote variety and multiplicity, a diversity he supports. Employing his skill as a professional anthropologist, Wood concludes that the word has become a cult icon supporting a set of prescribed numerical outcomes at odds with real equality and liberty. 


Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom have devoted much of their distinguished careers to studying race and ethnicity in America.  Among their many works, they are the co-authors of the acclaimed America in Black and White, and a forthcoming book, No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning.