Over the next month, nearly 20,000 students will report to M.D. degree-granting medical schools in the United States for their first day of class. This represents an enrollment increase of nearly 25 percent in just 10 years.
One of the goals of many new and expanding medical schools has been to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities. Such policies are generally promoted to compensate for past discrimination and to ensure greater similarity between patient populations and health professionals. But diversity and the grounds for supporting it run far deeper.
In fact, if there is a proposition on which we should tolerate very little diversity of opinion, it is this: Diversity is a matter of the utmost importance. From individual minds and communities of learners to whole professions, cultures, and ecosystems, we need diversity, and we need more of it. Diversity is the wellspring of our creativity and resilience. Without it, our lives would become not only monotonous but, in the words of one of the founding philosophers of the enlightenment, Thomas Hobbes, “solitary, poor, and short.”
The word diversity comes from the Latin roots meaning “to turn aside.” The same root gives us the words divert and diverticulum — the term physicians use to describe an abnormal out-pouching from a structure such as the bowel or bladder. A diversion is a deviation from the expected path. By definition, every fundamental innovation, whether in the biological or intellectual arena, represents just such a surprise. Our penchant for safety and predictability sometimes leads us to regard unexpected outcomes as failures. Yet without such surprises, we would never learn anything truly new.
The Atlantic explores this issue here.
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