construed as ultimate values, and less advantaged power groupsrntransitionally mask themselves in the cloak of nonjudgmentalrnmulticulturalism, value discussion is itself unavoidably discouraged.rn(Those having grabbed the best seats, if only by defaultrnor by successful ascription of inherited guilt to others, findrnnothing to gain in any further discussion of the seating arrangements,rnand therefore they do their best either to ignore orrnto outlaw such discussions.)rnValue discussion, which almost always involves rejection asrnwell as choice, tends to be counterproductive, even destructive,rnwith respect to power’s preservation, for value discussion demystifiesrnsuch power, asking the why of its accumulation, thernends of its potential deployments. Such discussion subsumes,rnif not often debunks, some of power’s aspirants for their relativernintellectual poverty. If I do not feel good about myself orrnmy group, telling me that there is good reason for me to feelrnbad—a feeling which itself is construed in many educationalrnquarters as an early sign both of awareness and of hope—canrnonly further diminish my self-respect, my sense of empowermentrnand of status. We have now moved from the intellectuallyrnrelativistic position that every point of view is “valid in itsrnown way” to the paralyzing dogma that every cultural productionrnis on the same footing with every other. Add to this brewrnthe asphyxiating conviction that whatever has seemingly advancedrnbeyond its cultural rivals must have done so unfairlyrnthrough economic “privilege” and should be unmasked andrnthen excoriated for its misbegotten cultural dominance, andrnyou have a picture of cultural socialism being played out in thernname of tolerance. Neither sports teams nor businesses operaternin this manner, nor is it a method by which medical, aviational,rnor personal decisions are made, and if it bespeaks the educationalrnfuture, perhaps the humanities are best abolishedrnaltogether. Hosting a convention of plague victims may enhancernthe city’s revenues in the short term, but soon thatrnsame city will surely perish, victim of its own success.rnIn higher education nowadays two factors are in play. Thernless dangerous of the two has to do with our economic competitivenessrnand the basic abilities of our work force. Here,rnreading comprehension and computer literacy are undoubtedlyrnof more importance than understanding Athenian democracyrnor the open couplet. Plato, Jung, and the Hindus havernclaimed, as have numerous others, that it is usually after the agernof 18 that the “big” questions find fertile soil. Though it mayrnwell be that the ground must be cultivated early and regularlyrnif any crops are later to grow, the college president’s report onrnutilitarian bias may serve a useful purpose, directing studentsrntoward the more immediate mysteries of label and directionrnreading and comprehension and drawing them back from Dcrrideanrndeconstruction or from those depressing social historiesrnof still one further dimension of the commonplace. Utilitarianrnbias may shrivel the soul, but it may be worse to bloat it irremediablyrnwith empty sophistications, especially if it is alreadyrnmystified by such basics as complex sentence constructionrnand the fundamentals of the card catalogue system in the library.rnWorker-proficiency is supposedly related to a party our countryrnallegedly held and now has to pick up after. Deficit status,rntrade balance, dollar strength, and so on are all taken as measuresrnof underlying economic health, and, it is argued, by thesernvery measures too much has been eaten and drunk, whether anrnactual party has been thrown or not. In any case a cleaningrncrew is needed, a somewhat self-sacrificing one at that, and thernmore competent and efficient it is, the quicker its work will bernaccomplished. The irony of our metaphysical poverty is that forrnmany the cleanup’s only purpose is to enable some future generationrnto have a life similar to the one after which our youngerrngenerations are now being asked to pick up. Something isrnsurely wrong.rnBut there is more, and this brings me to the second andrnmore explosive factor in the educational condominium,rnthe factor which has been much at the heart of multiculturalism.rnThis second factor might be described as an educationalrnversion of the trickle-down theory. And what does this mean?rnTo be economically competitive the United States must functionrnto some considerable degree as a cooperative unit, as arnteam, so to speak. This is at best difficult, and increasingly so,rnfor we are progressively a country of separating and growing ethnicities,rnparticularities with clout and aspiration, particularitiesrnwanting both larger pieces of the pie and insulation and protectionrnfrom each other’s competitive claims. How is this to bernaccomplished? The underlying educational theory is that anrnelite of the college-edueable among diverse ethnicities, ifrnbrought together to understand each other’s cultures and to livernin conversational proximity to each other, will form a kind ofrnmulticultural vanguard, not just of tolerance but of appreciation,rnand this will trickle down to the less educated over timernand become common wisdom. Further, as more and more representativesrnof each differing ethnicit}’ get prominent and wellrewardedrnpositions in society, those ethnic groups will becomernmore positively visible, more integrated into what might berncalled an emerging multicultural mainstream. And they arernlikely, too, regardless of their ethnicity, to be less resentful, thusrnless potentially destructive, of the productively privileged membersrnof the society as a whole, regardless of their ethnicity.rnObviously, no one knows the long-term outcome of thernapplication of this educational theory, though few socialengineeringrnprojects seem to have had more than a modest andrnoften eataelysmically reversible success. In the short term thisrntheory will surely create chaos and violence, and a great deal ofrnresentment will be engendered in those groups who feel themselvesrnbeing displaced, having to give way to the demands ofrnvarious emerging and insistent minorities. It will require, as dornvirtually all social-engineering projects, what the Czech writerrnMilan Kundera calls the “organizing forgetting” of much ofrnAmerican history. The communists themselves, as cunningrnand ruthless as any amnesia salesman could possibly be, foundrnthat this could not be sustained. Whether the Americanrneducational establishment will have any better fortune isrndoubtful, for they lack both the hardness and the clear sense ofrn(hallucinated) outcome that supported the various communistrnnomenclatures for so long.rnOne final word on these tangled social-engineering issues.rnWe know that forced busing did not work, was in fact a miserablernfailure. But we also know that for the current educationalrntheory to have a chance, for it in fact to be tested, somethingrnother than what is now happening would have to occur. To givernan example, it would be precisely the non-African-Americansrnwho would have to study black culture, for in this might bernfound the expansion of understanding, and perhaps evenrnappreciation and critical respect. As it is, with each ethnicrnclaimant seeking an impregnable basis from which to reflect appreciativelyrnupon itself, little can be accomplished beyond arnkind of solipsistically driven balkanization. It is not only Leib-rnSEPTEMBER 1994/27rnrnrn