What is Diversity?

March 6, 2013
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By Cadet Alexander Cox

I found it particularly interesting to read “Intolerable Tolerance” because I was able to compare my experiences in ROTC to the provided overview of socialization. As members of the Air Force, we are part of a unique organization, one whose purpose it is to protect America and its interests at a moment’s notice and without question. It is a frightening thing to think about the power that an organization such as ours has, not only in terms of the weapons we command but also the ability to shape the attitudes and beliefs of our trainees.

“Socialization is the way our military takes immensely diverse and heterogeneous people from our population and recasts the as a single and homogenous type” (Lt. Col. Parco et al. 2012). The need for socialization stems from the reality that every service member is unique. If a more homogenous cross section of America were to represent the military’s recruits, the process of socialization would be less important. Yet this is where the strength of the Air Force lies. With great diversity comes an equally great selection of differing viewpoints and skillsets. This is what allows the military to fill the vast selection of jobs with capable soldiers. As seen in “Pearls before breakfast”, an astonishing number of people with an equally astonishing diversity of backgrounds passed by a world famous violinist masquerading as a street musician. Yet only a handful recognized his talent for what it was. The lack of optimal viewing conditions aside, this example is representative of the benefits of diversity. A more homogeneous slice of population may have had not a single person stop and listen; It took a wide range of backgrounds to recognize Joshua Bell for what he was. It is no stretch to compare this to a possible scenario in the military. What can go unnoticed by many may be very important, and a wide selection of backgrounds and skill sets ensures that is statistically unlikely to happen.

I feel I would be doing the concept of diversity an injustice if I didn’t touch on the role it will have in the future. As our military grinds into the 21st century, I believe the focus should be less on promoting diversity, and more on how to properly socialize incoming recruits. This is the basic point that “Intolerable Tolerance” presents. Simply tolerating differences is not the key to maximizing our effectiveness as an organization. Proposing that we move away from discrimination as an organization is not the correct course of action either. The point that “discriminating judgments are useful only when they are tied to some level of performance” (Lt. Col. Parco et al. 2012), must be stressed.  If the proper values and attitudes can be instilled during training, toleration becomes superfluous. We are a merit based organization; the only thing that matters is one’s ability to perform a job. For our military to truly advance into a different age, a shift in thinking has to occur.

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