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A Comment On “Heterodox Academy’s Guide to the Most (and Least) Politically Diverse Colleges, First Edition”

Heterodox Academy has posted yet another terrific piece, called Heterodox Academy’s Guide to the Most (and Least) Politically Diverse Colleges, First Edition.

But, well, you know me; I have a few things to day about it in the way of constructive criticism, positive encouragement, and suggestions for improvement.

re: “Where can I (or my children) go to encounter at least some modicum of viewpoint diversity among the faculty?


re: “if students want to know whether a university offers enough political diversity among its faculty to ensure a robust exchange of ideas, they will search in vain for a useful college guide. We at Heterodox Academy aim to provide direction for students looking to escape academia’s many monocultures.

As I think about this it strikes me that your (Heterodox Academy’s) aim is much too low.

If I were a parent or a student interested in intellectual diversity and a “Strengthen U.” sort of education I’d be highly skeptical that a school with merely a “modicum” of non-liberal professors would be able to offer what I’m looking for.

Rather, I’d seek out a school at which intellectual diversity is the central component of its academic mission statement, campus culture, and required curricula, by conscious design and intent.

I don’t mean to be critical, or to tell you your job – well, maybe I do; call it constructive criticism, because I’m a fan of Haidt and of Heterodox Academy. But I can’t help thinking that if you’re going to stand for something then man up and do that. Stop nibbling around the edges. If Strengthen U. is your goal then define what that entails and do your analysis and develop your guide of universities based on that definition. If you aim for the ideal then there’s a much better chance you’ll hit good enough.

But if you aim only for good enough merely by identifying schools with some percentage of non-liberal professors, in my mind, you’re practically guaranteeing mediocre results at best. You’re settling, in my view.

MLK didn’t say his goal was to reduce by some amount the percentage of whites only establishments or the number of separate drinking fountains. He had a dream, and he strove for nothing less than its full achievement.

What’s Heterodox Academy’s dream? Strive for that. If the problem is severe enough to form an organization to combat it then step of to the plate and do that. Don’t settle. Don’t make Heterodox Academy a token gesture.

How do we do that, you ask?

In the eyes of Heterodox Academy, what would the ideal mission statement of a university look like? Write one. Use it as a model, as the criteria, by which you develop your guide to the most (and least) politically diverse schools.

What would the core curriculum at Strengthen U. (assuming that’s Heterdox Academy’s dream) look like? Would it look something like a Great Books program? Would it include, as Haidt has recommended, a required course in Dale Carnegie for all incoming freshmen? Would there be an introduction to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? A course on critical thinking, and/or the rudiments of argumentation and debate, including how to identify the presumptions and assumptions that underlie an argument?

Ideally, in my humble opinion, every student graduating from Strengthen U. would know that 1) intuition comes first, strategic reasoning second, 2) there’s more to morality than care and fairness, 3) what the “more” is, and how different moral matrices employ the foundations, 4) morality binds and blinds, 5) The Argumentative Theory.  Ignorance of these things, in my opinion, is one of, if not THE, greatest contributing factor to the problems Heterodox Academy seeks to address, upon which we have some amount of control.

These are examples, but you get my gist. Define as concretely as possible Heterodox Academy’s dream school. Use that as criteria for the analysis in your guide to the most (and least) intellectually diverse schools.

Then, don’t stop there.

Work with schools, the way FIRE does, to help them develop mission statements and curricula and statements of diversity and tolerance and inclusiveness (rightly understood as the intellectual kind, and not ONLY the skin color kind).

And not just with universities. Work with elementary and middle and high schools too. That’s where the problem really starts, so that’s where the solution is going to have to come from.

I honestly believe that teachers and administrators at all levels, from Kindergarten through grad school, really do have their student’s best interests at heart. Appeal to that. Appeal to the care foundation. Show how, and why, preparing our kids for the real world with a “Free Range” approach that not merely exposes them to other ways of thinking, but that also actively challenges their own core beliefs is the most caring, most compassionate, most inclusive, most tolerant, thing we can do for them.


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