It was once said of the godfather of libertarianism, John Stuart Mill, that he was “all head and no heart.” After reading another of Marjorie Cortez’s representations of the liberal ideal (“Public schooling creates common ground“), we could say politely that liberals are all heart and no head.
And so we have Ms. Cortez lamenting and then lecturing Utahns for our puzzling lack of understanding, compassion, and humanity regarding the “Balkanization of America,” the healing powers of diversity, and her weird notions of the common good.
The true common good is actuated as individual members of society choose to conform their lives to a transcendent, universal moral order that surrounds them naturally. For Ms. Cortez, the common good is found in the fantastic irony of “diversity,” borne of coerced uniformity to an arbitrary point of view.
True diversity is an innate and self-evident aspect of the human experience, but it is not a moral sentiment nor is it a principle upon which to build peaceful and prosperous communities within a free society. Ms. Cortez confuses ideology for the American experience. She substitutes diversity for pluralism.
Diversity as an ideological foundation of society leads to human misery. It does several things very poorly. First, it provides no vision for the future. It is a snapshot of who we are, not what we can or ought to become. Second, it divides people. By its very nature, diversity fails on its own to create community. Third, it provides no self-correcting influence on society. Whatever society gets wrong, stays wrong. And diversity has nothing to say about the great injustices of any era, except to compound them with idiotic and pretentious bumper-sticker philosophies.
On the other hand, pluralism – communities within communities, layers of counter-balancing authorities, such as family, church, local and ethnic neighborhood, voluntary association, and the free market – is a powerful social mechanism that helps to shape our moral order, keep us free, and give society hope for the future. Most importantly, pluralism is a self-correcting influence.
Not surprisingly, within this context of diversity, Ms. Cortez tirelessly overestimates the social value of public schools. Clearly, our schools are a benefit to the community, but not as she supposes. Wittingly or unwittingly, Ms. Cortez follows that old line of prejudicial thinking, part bigotry/part elitist, that Americans require forced socialization and that the only way to do it is to pry the rising generations out of biased (i.e., traditional) homes and into little factories for social uniformity – uniformity, oddly enough, she calls “diversity.”
This same thinking led to the persecutions of immigrants and religious sects ranging from the Irish to the Mormons, with a good thrashing of our Native Americans thrown in the mix. All of these “social misfits” were in need of public schooling to Americanize the un-Americans and socialize the differences right out of them. Today we call it political correctness and multiculturalism.
Of course, most Utahns see public schools, and all schools, for what they really are – opportunities to constructively share our unique lives, learning, work, and service.
To use her own phrase, Ms. Cortez needs to come out of her “safe place” – the protective tower of the editorial board room – meet people eye to eye and seriously dialogue about the real world. Utahns deserve better ideas and arguments than tired, ideological, ungrounded (and often unchallenged) platitudes from liberal editorialists.
(Paul T. Mero is president of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative public policy think tank.)