DEI Hasn’t Died: The Rise of Neurodiversity and Multigenerational Diversity

The New York Times recently unveiled a fascinating shift in the landscape of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) programs. Instead of the overt focus on race and gender representation, a new trend of rebranding is emerging. Now, we see the rise of more innocuous-sounding initiatives like “culture surveys” and “performance training.”

While opponents should rightfully celebrate small yet meaningful victories in blunting the doctrine here and there, one must be somberly reminded that the DEI behemoth is deeply entrenched in our institutions, and its ideological core of dividing our society by group labels stays unchanged.

To stave off public scrutiny, DEI’s snake-oil salesmen constantly reinvent the grift with new terms and euphemisms. Especially after the Supreme Court struck down Harvard’s race-based undergraduate admissions, zealots have engineered innovative vehicles to perpetuate the ideology.

“Neuroinclusion” or “neurodiversity” is an umbrella concept for accommodating individuals with developmental and learning disabilities such as autism and ADHD. The concept describes different ways people’s brains may work, whereas there is no “correct” way and we must encourage these differences.

According to the Harvard Medical School, “neurodiversity advocates encourage inclusive, nonjudgmental language” towards persons with developmental disabilities. Instead of addressing them with “person-first language,” such as “a person with Down syndrome,” neurodiverse folks need to use “identity-first language” and be more sensitive towards their special needs, which should be viewed as differences, not deficits. Employers should make the workplaces more “neurodiversity-friendly” by offering noise-cancelling headphones, allowing modifications to the usual work uniform, allowing the use of fidget toys, and giving extra movement breaks.

In October 2023, the Stanford Neurodiversity Project, an initiative launched by Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, held a three-day summit. The event was organized to “collect views of the community about what research and community-based services should be prioritized and how they can be designed better… [to] build a sanctuary for all who promote and safeguard neurodiversity.” On day 2 of the summit, there was a panel on destigmatizing neurodiverse conditions, during which a self-proclaimed “scholar activist” and a “feminist rabbi” discussed the need to train lawyers on “trauma-informed practices” and ways our legal system “stereotype, penalize, and mistreat neurodivergent people.”

Another panel on day 3 explored “aspects of educational experiences among Black, neurodiverse, graduate students.” Taking on the mantel of intersectionality, panelists offered “insights into how systemic racism / white supremacy and marginalization of neurodivergent individuals may combine to present intersectional challenges.” They argued that a narrative of “Black excellence,” while displacing “racist narratives of Black inferiority,” may inadvertently marginalize Black neurodivergent students further.

In other words, projecting strength, excellence, and resilience has the same effect of harming these students as assuming incompetence. You can’t win either way.

Having lost its legal case for race-based admissions, Harvard, along with its peers in higher education, has rejuvenated the pledge for DEI in another regard. A “multigenerational workforce,” based on the Harvard Business Review, is the answer to the aging U.S. population and increases in longevity. Specifically, the academic consensus on multigenerational diversity calls for measures like offering flexible work arrangements, supporting caregiving employees and offering comprehensive benefits. A Harvard-trained DEI consultant offers an online professional development course called “Diversity Across Generations: Supporting Workplace Inclusion.”

DEI programs are undergoing a rebranding through which the same inflammatory, divisive, and identity-based contents are repackaged under different monikers that are more innocent sounding. As usual, with its ever-growing subsector of grievance studies, the higher education complex lends legitimacy to the re-branding.

But the concept of neurodiversity, a recent offshoot from the DEI ideology, is untested and contentious. A veteran occupational therapist warns that the neurodiversity-affirming movement will cause unintended consequences such as overlooking a generation of children who need interventions to develop play, language, communication and academic skills.

The movement, by stigmatizing severe autism and developmental disabilities as hate speech or biases, also signals a counterproductive refusal to acknowledge said disabilities, and with the refusal, an unwillingness to treat the challenges medically and behaviorally. Other more unforgiving critics point out the ideological nature of the movement, which opposes curing autism and other disabilities:

The reality is that identity politics has become so deranged that there is a group of people who seek to prevent autistic people getting help, on the nonsensical grounds that it’s insulting to suggest they need it.

More importantly, claims for neurodiversity and age diversity are always imbued with notions of intersectionality. For instance, one of the lessons in the multigenerational diversity course—“Multigenerational diversity and anti-racism”—outlines workplace challenges stemming from racial “bias, stereotyping and projection” due to having a mix of baby boomer and Gen Z employees. In the neurodiversity realm, the systemic inequity/racism indictment shows that “[d]ue to biases, Black students are often diagnosed with other disorders such as ADHD or conduct disorders, and even intellectual disabilities when their white peers are diagnosed with autism.”

One way or another, new diversity concepts continue to be racialized. In its latest report entitled “Diversity matters even more,” Mckinsey & Company reinstates the business case for DEI, arguing that more gender, racial, and ethnic representation on corporate executive teams leads to better financial performance “despite a challenging business environment.”

In simple, unambiguous terms, DEI has not died. Its opponents must stay vigilant.

Photo by Vitalii Vodolazskyi — Adobe Stock — Asset ID#: 547796037 — Edited by Jared Gould


9 thoughts on “DEI Hasn’t Died: The Rise of Neurodiversity and Multigenerational Diversity

  1. On the autism spectrum, I found myself somewhere in between Asperger’s (now no longer a term used) and mild autism.
    So, not Neurotypical (at least not obviously so externally).
    Yeah I made it through medical school without special accommodations. Everything I did and accomplished probably came with some extra struggles compared to the Neurotypical, and with extra hard work on my part, not with government help.
    Changing labels for someone like myself is not helpful or useful. if I am not competent because of my so-called disability, then I shouldn’t be seeing patients or be anywhere near medical decision-making on a patient’s treatment.
    Gotta go. Judge Wapner is on in 10 minutes.

  2. What about hunter-gatherers (HuGs)? These are people whose ancestors were until recently hunter gatherers– such as many Blacks and Native Americans.
    HuGs have strong genetic and cultural instincts to hunt (kill) and gather (steal) and to behave tribally.
    Do they add to diversity or do they just cause problems? Do we let them in or keep them out?

    1. It’s simpler than that — The Enlightenment changed society and society’s values.

      Most of the world doesn’t share Enlightenment values and it’s not racist to recognize that fact. Japan now does because we essentially killed much of one generation and proceeded to teach these values to the next — that and baseball, and I think they now understand both better than we do now. But the atrocities that Japan committed during WWII are understandable if you understand that they were not an Enlightenment culture.

      Japan of the 1930s was anything but a hunter/gatherer culture, it hadn’t been one for thousands of years — but the real issue is that it didn’t share the values of the Enlightenment. China today doesn’t — it’s got a better K-12 education system than we do — it just doesn’t have Enlightenment values. Neither does the Islamic world nor most of Africa (Kenya may be an exception).

      Other than letting criminals and unknown numbers of genuine terrorists come across the border, the mistake we are making is presuming that these aliens are going to share our Enlightenment values. They don’t.

      Prior generations of immigrants did — and that is the difference.

  3. People are sick of it — corporate employees being hauled into a conference room by an overpaid DEI bureaucrat and told they are racist; citizens decrying the wave of dangerous immigration and being labled “xenophobic”; and most perniciously children penalized and mocked because of the color of their skin in class exercises that purport to be about “justice” and “community.” Please. We have a senile president who has bought into all of this nonsense, apprently unable to take issue with the leftist who put him in office and who continue to do his bidding. JMc

  4. As is typical of the left, they make claims without providing a shred of evidence. I would like to see a list of the corporations that can clearly show more gender, racial or ethnic representatives among executive groups led to any measurable improvement in their bottom line.

  5. Well done and informative. One part of the language that has been captured is immigration. As a young demographer I learned the population-movement taxonomy migration, invasion, and nomadism each with distinct components. By the way, who would use the term migration when speaking of the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine or the WWII German Panzer invasion of the low countries? Now collectivist powers are sponsoring an invasion of the US and everyone calls it migration.

  6. Another consequence not mentioned regarding the fawning over the ‘neurodiverse’ will be the fostering of a greater culture of entitlement where those who feel they are so unique and special without a ‘diagnosis’ will demand accomodation for their specialness. This will only plunge schools and places of employment into chaos and nonproductivity. (Perhaps it is a way to implement the Cloward Piven strategy.) For centuries the goal of growing up has been for the individual to find their place in the world, not to force the world to bend to the individual.

    1. “…fostering of a greater culture of entitlement where those who feel they are so unique and special without a ‘diagnosis’ will demand accomodation for their specialness.”

      I actually fear the opposite. First, a “diagnosis” can be bought and that’s half the problem with SPED in K-12 today — wealthy parents buying a diagnosis that says what they want it to say, actual facts be damned. My personal favorite was the child who had to go to an uber-expensive out of district school for years — until the first day of hockey team tryouts in the high school at which point the child had a miraculous recovery and suddenly could attend the regular high school (as that was a requirement to be on the team).

      But what I fear worse is what Affirmative Action has done to qualified women and minorities — that disability will be viewed as dumb and incompetent which it isn’t (always).
      No more than being female or Black is….

  7. Deep Breath….

    Let me first state that I have no doubt that Dr. Wu accurately reported the bedlam — and that there was probably even more. And as they told the reporters investigating Watergate a half century ago, “follow the money.” Follow the money — there are a lot of people making a lot of money with this foolishness and if it were all to end, they’d be lucky to be making minimum wage as parking attendants.

    I’m all for being sensitive, but there’s a limit to it. We started using the word “Retarded” because it was supposedly less offensive than the words we used before, and we replaced that with “Developmentally Delayed” for the same reason, and now we have a whole bunch of new words to say the same thing — that the kid has an IQ of 50, if that. Sadly, nothing is going to change it and while we may feel good about putting him into college classrooms, all we are doing is dumbing down the curriculum to a preschool level. (And we award college credits & degrees for that?!?)

    As to having older college students, there is a lot to be said for that — perhaps the golden age of American academia was in the 1950s when the older GIs were on campus. They were in their late 20s and early 30s and had very little tolerance for the sophomoric antics of teenagers. COBOL was a state-of-the-art computer language when I was an undergraduate — lifelong learning is going to be with us in some format because of the necessity to keep up in a rapidly changing world. And students have families — employers are starting to recognize that and if higher education survives, it will have to as well.

    But what drives me ballistic is that there can even BE“an umbrella concept for accommodating individuals with developmental and learning disabilities such as autism and ADHD.” I don’t doubt they said it, I’ve heard it myself, and I find it infuriating.

    ADHD is a “Neurological Difference” — the DSM-V says so. It’s not uncommon for these kids to have IQs in the 150-170 range and to consider them similar to Down’s Syndrome (IQ 35-69) is, frankly, stupid. But follow the money…

    ADHD is essentially similar to being left-handed — and imagine the problems “lefties” would have in academia if they were forced to write with their right hands. And the sad thing is that I can actually see some academic fascist actually doing this — and calling them stupid when they couldn’t.

    But follow the money on this — there is no more interest in helping students with ADHD than there is in helping Black kids learn basic skills. It’s far more profitable to have victims.

    Preferably victims that will take over a building for you…

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