There is quite the dust-up at the University of Wisconsin Law School over remarks by a professor concerning the difficulties of fashioning law in a multicultural society (or, more accurately, in a way that honors the presumptions of political multiculturalism). Professor Leonard Kaplan referred to a series of stereotypes about Hmong people and, although its not clear from news reports precisely what he said, at least one student took his remarks to mean that he believed that the stereotypes were "true" and sent an e-mail around that has brought all manner of grief. Students who were not in his class claim that they cannot go to class and cannot sleep. There has been a bombardment of apologies.
What did the professor really say? What did he mean? If not the sweeping remarks that were reported, did he say anything about cultural differences that was - in any sense - true? None of that matters because, in suggesting - whether he agreed or not - that Hmong culture differs in ways that may not be admirable, he has violated the first principle of campus multiculturalism. You can never remark upon anything that might bear unfavorably on a historically disfavored - and, therefore, now favored - group. If you do, no response on the part of those who have been harmed is too hysterical and no quantum of apology is adequate.
What is ironic is that Kaplan may have felt himself to be acting in accordance with multicultural practice, arguing that cultural differences must be identified and respected, even if they are products of poverty or a lack of education.
But in turning multiculturalism into a faith rather than a reasoned perspective, can we really be surprised that students react emotionally to what they perceive (even incorrectly) as blasphemy?