by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A new and pernicious tool for enforcing ideological conformity is sweeping across America’s colleges and universities. Recent developments show it threatening K–12 as well. I’m talking about “diversity statements,” mandatory affirmations of woke ideology by K–12 teachers and professors seeking employment, promotion, or tenure. Diversity statements amount to political litmus tests: “Prove your fealty to woke ideology, or surrender your hopes of advancement.” These vows of ideological conformity are an affront to liberty of conscience and academic freedom. Not yet widely known to the general public, educator diversity statements are quietly snuffing out the final flickers of dissenting intellectual life in our education system.
Nevertheless, diversity statements can be stopped. The wave of resistance to woke ideology coursing across the states can turn this troubling trend around. Here’s how. Together, Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, North Carolina’s James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, and I have just issued model state-level legislation designed to bar the use of diversity statements — and all other political and ideological tests — at public K–12 schools and universities. The model is entitled the “End Political Litmus Tests in Education Act.” …
… [M]any universities are now pre-screening job applicants for conformity to “woke” ideology — the belief that students should be considered, first and foremost, as members of a racial or ethnic group, rather than as individuals. Applicants who adhere to the classically liberal principles foundational to our education system are actually excluded.
The use of diversity statements has been escalating over the past five years. It now extends to around a fifth of higher-education institutions. You might think the practice would cluster in humanities departments, but it’s prevalent in STEM fields as well. The more prestigious the school, the more the practice is favored, a sign that diversity statements are likely to spread to many more schools.