Jewish World Review March 6, 2003 / 2 Adar II, 5763

Burt Prelutsky

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Consumer Reports

Diversity, schmiversity | A few years ago, I was an Executive Story Consultant on the Dick Van Dyke series, "Diagnosis Murder."

There were five on us working in the writers' room. We were, by most measures, a fairly diverse group of individuals. Two of us were born in New York, one in New Orleans, one in Chicago, one in a small town in Utah. Three of us were Jews, ranging from Conservative down to merely cultural; one was an ex-Catholic; one was Mormon.

Four of us were married, one was a confirmed bachelor. Three of us had been married more than once; one of us had been married five times. Between us, we had seven children, one adopted, ranging in age from five to twenty-eight.

Two of us believed in G-d, one was an atheist, one was agnostic, and one of us suspected that the higher power was none other than Dick Van Dyke.

Two of us believed in capital punishment, two were opposed, one wasn't certain. Three of us were college graduates, two of us weren't. Three of us voted for Gore, one for Bush, one for Nader.

Two of us had been journalists, one of us had been a bartender, one had been a West Point cadet, and one had been an aspiring actress.

Two of us rooted for the Yankees, one for the Red Sox, and two of us thought the other three were nuts for liking baseball.

In my opinion, in spite of the fact that we were all Caucasians, all of us in our fifties, and all of us TV writers, we were as different as a random group of five adult Americans is likely to be.

Hardly a day went by that we weren't arguing about something --- and it was only rarely about a story point or a murder clue in one of our scripts.

However, there are those people who would insist that because none of us were black or Hispanic, we couldn't possibly be a model of true diversity in the work place.

Doesn't it seem peculiar that liberals who are so fond of quoting Martin Luther King's remark about judging people by their character, not the color of their skin, are the very ones these days who are so totally hung up on pigmentation?

The idea that the folks governing admissions at the University of Michigan would award 20 points (out of a possible 100) to a prospective student for merely being black is simultaneously patronizing and bigoted. After four decades of Head Start programs, court-mandated busing, and billions of dollars earmarked for minority education, black students require 20 points in order to compete?

Doesn't the terrible rate of attrition among black college students suggest that Affirmative Action isn't such a hot idea? Isn't it just possible that leap-frogging black and Hispanic 18-year-olds over the backs of white and Asian students isn't just un-American, but is downright stupid and ill-advised? Reverse bigotry is still bigotry.

As any third-grader knows, taking cuts is always unfair, unjust, the rotten act of a schoolyard bully --- and it makes no difference if the school is Elm Street Elementary or Harvard.

In all the self-righteous crusading on behalf of student diversity, what I don't hear anyone clamoring for is diversity among the instructors. After all, in the Groves of Academe, especially in the so-called Humanities at the major universities, it would be safe to wager that at least 90% of the faculty members are Democrats. Moreover, I would suggest that liberal bias in the classroom, with all those youngsters soaking up leftwing propaganda and regurgitating it in the form of Blue Book exams, is a far greater menace to a democratic society than a school's failure to meet an arbitrary quota based on ethnicity.

Anyone who thinks the hues of the students are more important than the views of the professors has a badly warped sense of priorities. He is the sort of person who, if he'd been aboard the Titanic, would have still been complaining about the hors d'oeuvres as the ship went down.

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JWR contributor Burt Prelutsky is a veteran TV writer whose credits include, among others, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, The Bob Newhart Show and Diagnosis Murder. Comment by clicking here. Visit his website by clicking here.

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11/21/02: A welcome guest

© 2003, Burt Prelutsky