The first 44 seconds of this video introduces my topic. Here’s a transcript of it:
Alice Dreger: Yeah, you know, I mean, to my mind, the problem with these celebrity speakers being crayed- being paid crazy amounts of money to come in and then we have to pay for all the securities. Most of them are not intellectuals, so why are we spending university money on non-intellectuals? I mean, I- I think the most basic question should not be “Can we tolerate this point of view?” It’s, “Is there any academic content here? Is there anything that looks like research-based thinking? Any kind of innovative thinking here that is something like what we would expect at a university level? Something that will educate an undergraduate to a high level, or are we just bringing in somebody to shout slogans so everybody can tweet it and argue about it?”
Here’s how I might start a hypothetical talk that I imagine myself giving at an Open Mind Conference:
I don’t belong here. You don’t want me here. I violate every one of the four major sacred values that define academia.
First, I’m not an intellectual. I don’t have a high IQ. I’m probably one of the dullest tools in the shed of this conference. In my defense, when I took the test in 1974 schools weren’t teaching to it, and my SAT Prep course consisted of my teacher saying “Bring two pencils.”
Second, I’m not a WEIRD rationalist; where WEIRD is an acronym for a way of thinking typically found in cultures that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. I don’t think in terms of experiments and methods and statistically significant data in peer-reviewed academic studies. I don’t see a world full of objects, some of which happen to walk around on two legs. I don’t value Michael Oakeshott’s “technical” knowledge at the expense of his “practical” knowledge. My intellectual sacred value is not abstract Platonic reason-based choice.
Rather, I’m a holistic empiricist. I think in terms of stories like the Analects of Confucius or Aesops Fables or the allegories of the Bible. I see a world full of relationships. I value technical knowledge AND practical knowledge, together; the collected wisdom of human experience in combination with reason. There are some things we know to be true even if we can’t explain why. My intellectual sacred value is holistic Aristotelian empiricism.
Third, I’m not an academic. I don’t have a Ph.D., and I’m not employed by any sort of school at any level. I read and think and write about these topics on my own initiative in my spare time.
And fourth, I’m not a liberal. My moral sacred value is not the single dimension of “care.” I’m conservative. My moral sacred value is social capital, of which care is just one part.
So, in every meaningful way, academia is a hostile environment for me. It’s not merely WHAT I think – my viewpoint – that’s not represented here, it’s HOW I think; it’s who and what I am as a human. Is it any wonder, therefore, that people like me tend to self-segregate OUT of academia?
All of which is PRECISELY why Heterodox Academy should spend more time listening to me and others like me and less time preaching about the wonders of viewpoint diversity. It should spend more time trying to understand at a deep level how and why it is alienating people like me and impelling us to self-select out of it. I mean, seriously, who needs this crap?
But I am here. And I’ll tell you why. Ideas matter. Despite the fact that I don’t meet ANY of the criteria- the sacred value – of academia, by some miracle the things I’ve been saying managed to break through the bubble of the powers that be here at Heterodox Academy allowed me to opine. So here I am.
This is good news for both of us. It shows that somebody here was open-minded enough and interested enough to want to get to the bottom of why and how academia alienates so many people by asking one of them, and it gives one of those people an opportunity to clue them in.
So buckle up, because as The Joker said in The Dark Knight, “Here. We. Go.”