Owing to its left-leaning political atmosphere, the town of Amherst, Massachusetts, home of the principal campus of the University of Massachusetts, is often ironically referred to by the local inhabitants as the People’s Republic of Amherst, and the folks in charge of UMass—as the state university is called—nowadays seem more determined than ever to live up to this caricature of radical political orthodoxy. Their latest political gambit, which has once again thrown the university into an uproar, has been an attempt to establish “contributions to multiculturalism” as the basis upon which faculty members’ merit raises, promotions, and tenure will be based. Henceforth, professors at UMass will be obliged to file an annual report on what, if anything, their teaching and their scholarship has contributed to the university’s multiculturalist agenda. Those who meet the requisite multiculturalist tests will be advanced; those who do not, will not.

The enforcement of such tests as a basis for academic advancement is all the more pernicious in this case because there is no officially agreed upon definition of multiculturalism at UMass. According to a recent report in a local newspaper—The Springfield Sunday Republican—a university task force tried and failed in 1994 to come to an agreement on the meaning of the term. But this doesn’t mean that the university community doesn’t understand the de facto meaning of multiculturalism. For it is also reported that a course in the religions of China, Egypt, Turkey, et al., which was granted “cultural diversity” status in the 1980s, had that designation withdrawn when it was discovered that the course failed to include specific sections on black Americans and women. In other words, the term “multiculturalism” is little more than a political euphemism for enforcing the study of politically preferred, politically correct subjects.

As the experience at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst suggests, the preferred method of enforcing the multicultural agenda is as follows: first you impose an affirmative action program that gives priority to black and female candidates, then you require of all of the faculty—not just those exclusively concerned with black studies or women’s studies—that they make a demonstrable contribution to one field or another, or both, as a condition of advancement. Are we alone in discerning a whiff of totalitarian coerciveness (not to mention pedagogical folly) in this procedure? MAT192 Mathematics, Gender, and Culture (Spring) 3 Credit Hours

Survey of the effects of gender and culture on the teaching, learning and doing mathematics [sic]. Topics include: gender and race differences in mathematics, factors influencing them and sociological consequences; eurocentrism in mathematics; ethnomathematics; women and people of color in the history and development of mathematics; and gender and multicultural issues in mathematics education. From the Undergraduate Catalog 1996–1997 for the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 15 Number 4, on page 2
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