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Session Ten: CLOSING DISCUSSION: TOWARDS A MORE HETERODOX ACADEMY

Jonathan Haidt:                 00:44                     ( silence)

Jonathan Haidt:                 00:44                     To you, you know, as we know, you go to academic conferences and every talk is great and it’s never boring. I mean today like, you know, all the panels were great, all the speakers were so, were so interesting. Um. So I was, um, um, I was really pleased with the way, with the way that the day, that the day went and that I, I just noticed something near the end of the day, which was that I’d like to apologize to the audience for the lack of viewpoint diversity because I was looking at the schedule; as far as I can tell, there were three conservatives today, like almost everybody … There were 28 speakers and they were only three that I’m guessing were right of center. And so we’re, you know, we kind of failed to have a full range of views.

Jonathan Haidt:                 01:17                     But I’m kind of being a little facetious here, but the point is that it’s actually very exciting that the left right dimension, which is, was so salient a couple years ago that this was really like a left, right sort of issue is what it seemed for the most part. Um. And that’s kind of fading away, because I think what you saw today and what we’re, w- w- what we’re seeing is we travel around, we talk with professors, this is everybody’s issue now. This is, you know, all professors are, are, are it’s all professor’s issue, it’s all administrator’s issue, it’s whole student’s issue. And that is actually … that really bodes well for the future. It means it’s m-, in our hyper-polarized society, it’s much more likely to get solved, to get solved.

Jonathan Haidt:                 01:52                     So I thought, let me, I thought what I would do to try to integrate, I just was taking notes during, during the day. Um, at the beginning we said we were going to talk about what’s happening, ah, why it’s happening and, and what to do. And so just drawing from like greatest hits of the day. Uh, so what’s happening? Well, it is a crisis as, ah, Bob Zimmer and Wendy Kaminer said. Ah, many universities are now run by dancing bears. Um, it is, uh, it is a religion. Religion has descended, ah, on campus, ah, but John Stuart Mill is not Jesus Christ. These are some of the things that we learned today.

Jonathan Haidt:                 02:26                     On why it’s happening: uh, American kids have been, ah, deprived of, of childhood as we saw in, in the last, uh, last session, not allowed to ride their bicycles or go to, ah, libraries lest they encounter a door or something like that. Um, um, administrators, uh, on why it’s happening in college. Administrators have failed to set, ah, set clear norms about free inquiry and about ways to engage. We, we heard about the rise of corporatization and branding at universities and throughout the day people talked about the effects of social media. This obviously is a huge part of the story of what’s happening and why it’s happening so suddenly, so quickly, just really since 2014.

Jonathan Haidt:                 03:01                     Um. On what to do: ah, that’s I think the most important thing for us, um, to, to talk about. Um. There’s a lot that parents can do. You heard, especially so Lenore, Lenore started this organization Let Grow. I’m on, I’m on the board of that. We’re very excited about this. Um, uh, go to the site, letgrow.org. Lots of great ideas, ah, there. Also you see [inaudible 00:03:21] can be used in schools. There’s all sorts of, of people and great programs working on this, um, at, at the college level.

Jonathan Haidt:                 03:27                     Clearly a theme of the day was that administrators and professors, but especially, ah, leadership of the university must set clear norms. This was in almost every panel, uh, Lucia, said it in the opening panel about the administrators at Reed College. They, they wouldn’t get involved and so terrible norms or ways of engaging entered the classroom that was disruptive. It damaged the educational enterprise for everybody.

Jonathan Haidt:                 03:49                     Um. Peter you’ve said that proactive always beats reactive. Uh, Robert Zimmer said, “Be clear about what you’re trying to do.” You have people coming into a new environment, it’s wide open what the norms are going to be, and if administrators, ah, come in and say, “Okay, look, this is a place of learning. You’re gonna, here’s how we engage. We have a long tradition of this.” Well then you’ll get that. But if you don’t set norms clearly, you could get terrible, terrible norms that encourage a call out, a call out culture.

Jonathan Haidt:                 04:14                     Um. Heather suggested making it really explicit, almost like a contractor oath that you will not shut down or shout down anyone else. Everyone gets to speak. Um, and we also heard several times about the importance of making it clear that shouting down others, shutting down others, stopping people from speaking or hearing is a very serious crime. It’s a deep violation of, of, of, of, of the most central values in an academic enterprise and it, and it needs to be punished. There has to … people have to know that there will be consequences if you do this, just as there needs to be for plagiarism, and if we don’t have any punishments for plagiarism or cheating, you’re going to get more plagiarism and cheating, etc.

Jonathan Haidt:                 04:49                     There’s so much that professors can do. We’ve Talked a lot about, ah, ways of fostering intellectual humility. Um. We think assigning the Open Mind program in classes or an orientation, if you go to openmindplatform.org, it’s very easy to use. It’s getting better and better. We’re very excited about that. Uh, there’s so much the professors can do to encourage students to engage using that currency that, that Robbie George, ah, ah, talked about the currency of reasons, evidence, and arguments that emotions are not arguments, ah, although they may be relevant, but they’re not arguments themselves.

Jonathan Haidt:                 05:18                     So much that students can do. We heard from, ah, ah, Roge Karma and, and others, uh, at Bridge USA to change culture from the bottom up. Most students want to hear a diverse views. So do it yourself. There’s all s- sorts of ways that you, that students can take charge here and change the environment for the better.

Jonathan Haidt:                 05:32                     I just want to say personally for me, the highlight was kind of unexpected. Um. We, um, we, we reached out, we, we really tried to reach out to critics, to people who have, have criticized Heterodox Academy, our mission. Uh, and Jason Stanley is one of the, is, is, you know, is was one of the few people who really criticized us with arguments, like not just said we were terrible people, but actually like made arguments. So, um, we invited him and I thought his talk was, it was particularly interesting. He said that the university is being used as a political pawn by forces on the right, um, and then he said something else. He just talking. He said something like the university … he said that the, something about these can be disputes among friends. These arguments were having, they could be disputes among friends, and that really, really touched me. Um, especially because he, you know, I don’t really, I mean there are lot of people who dislike me, but I don’t really have like academic enemies; but to the extent that I do, it was like Sam Harris used to be one and then maybe Jason Stanley.

Jonathan Haidt:                 06:21                     Um. We just n- n-, we criticize each other really kind of harshly in print, but once he was here and once we were taking part in this day together, ah, and, ah, you’re face to face with another human being, um, and then you find that actually, you know, you agree on actually a number of things and disagree on some other things. And we had a great talk in the green room. We have books coming out within a week of each other in September. We’re both … his is on authoritarianism and, and fascism, and I’ve been writing about, about that topic too. So we had, like, all these interests in common and we realized, wow, you know, be really cool if we, like, shared a stage together and, and talked about both what’s great about universities and what the problems are and, and so I had a real sense of possibility that this really could be disputes among friends that this, this bitter argument that has been divi-, so divisive of people in the universe, that, you know, we all recognize there is a problem; and the fact that we, I think we’re at that point where we really could work together.

Jonathan Haidt:                 07:14                     And there was, um, just to close up here, um, there was a phrase … who was. Oh, Robert Shibley said, um, we all come from a place of love for the Academy. And I think that sort of, you know, an overarching, ah, commitment and affection, ah, really can enable us to have disputes and debates that are the most productive possible. Um. So even though John Stuart mill is not Jesus, I think just that interaction between me and Jason has a really nice example of the power of viewpoint diversity.

Deb Mashek:                     07:44                     Also about the power of relationships.

Jonathan Haidt:                 07:46                     Ah, yes, that’s right. Human relationships.

Deb Mashek:                     07:47                     And people seeing eye to eye, and asking, “How do you see it?”

Jonathan Haidt:                 07:49                     Right. So, over to you, Deb. What, what are your take aways from the day? Or what, what are, what are we going to do at Heterodox Academy? What’s our plan?

Deb Mashek:                     07:56                     Yes. (laughs) I was like, “Oh, I didn’t do those.” Ah. Yeah. So thinking about what Heterodox Academy, ah, is doing and will continue to do on these fronts. One of the, one of the big ones is about creating networks and creating conduits of connection between our members with each other, but also people in this room with each other and, and from our organization out into the, the college campuses. So we certainly don’t claim to have all the right answers or that we have the one right view that would be very unheterodox, um, but, but really wanting to be a good partner, um, with the, with the colleges and universities, and asking frankly, “So how can we be of help? What, what do you need from us? Um. What can we do there?”

Deb Mashek:                     08:38                     A- another, so, you know, developing these networks but also developing ideas to help clarify the situation. Uh, we have an amazing team of writers headed by Moses Adams. Um, y- you know, we’re, we’re thinking about these things. We’re, we’re academics. We like to write. We like to think. We like to be in discussion, and I, I look forward to engaging more, not just on the blog, but finding opportunities to, to get out there in the, in the broader print and broadcast media and through other conversations.

Deb Mashek:                     09:08                     Um, a- another, I guess one of our, our huge ones that I, I, we talked about Open Mind a, a bit today, but one of our tools that we haven’t mentioned: so, one of the things we like to do is to develop new tools, ideally with some empirically backed rationale behind them so we can actually validate them and ev-, you know, see if they actually work is our campus expression survey-

Jonathan Haidt:                 09:28                     That’s right.

Deb Mashek:                     09:29                     And it’s a, it’s a another free tool. Easy to use. It’s a self report instrument that professors or administrators can choose to a- administer in a classroom or on a campus and it answers the, the important but fairly straightforward question of who is afraid to speak out about which issues and why. And we’re, we’re actually just this week, we just, uh, Sean came to find me today during one of the breaks to let me know that we have our IRB approval to launch our national, um, our [crosstalk 00:09:59]. Yeah, nationally representative sample, evaluating the, this tool. So we’ll be launching that sometime within the next week or so.

Deb Mashek:                     10:06                     And then in your, in your swag bags, everyone also got a, a copy of one of our other tools, which is the, the mill, the illustrated mill, all minus one. And Dave Sorelli was here. Dave, are you still here by chance? I, I think he had to, he had to step out, but he’s the graphic artist who brought mills metaphors to life in those amazing illustrations. So, so take a look, and we, we will be developing other tools. Um. If you have ideas or have tools that are, you’re incubating that you’re looking to amplify a let us know. We’re happy to help out with that too.

Jonathan Haidt:                 10:39                     Mm-hmm (affirmative).  Right. Let’s also say … Um. R- raise your hand here if you are a professor, please raise your hand high. Okay. Raise your hand high if you’re a professor who is not yet a member of Heterodox Academy, raise your hand high. Okay, okay. Okay. A few of you. Well, you, you’re all invited to join and tell, and tell your friends. Um, okay. What else? What else are we planting, Deb?

Deb Mashek:                     10:58                     Well, so the other question is what can you all do, um, to continue to advance viewpoint diversity of open inquiry in the Academy? So if you’re not already a member, please join at some time. A- again, probably next week we’ll be announcing a new membership category for professional affiliates, recognizing that colleges and universities are not just made up of professors, but that the staff people, the administrators, the people over in student affairs, they play a tremendous role in educating the whole person, ah, of our students and welcoming them in and those perspectives in, so we’ll be announcing that soon.

Deb Mashek:                     11:31                     Um, i- if you have some novel insights and some ways that you’re thinking about this that you haven’t heard about, please write. Whether it’s for the student newspaper, your local newspaper, national media outlets, our blog, we are inviting submissions. That doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily get posted right away, and will probably go through some editing, but please reach out to us and share your ideas.

Deb Mashek:                     11:53                     Get your voices out there. The more people who are talking about this, who bring visibility to it, the more leverage and influence I think we’ll have, um, broadly out there. And if you have the wherewithal to do, we would welcome financial support for Heterodox Academy. I can’t believe … so, I’ve been, ah, in this organization since January and really at least once a week some new amazing idea comes up and we’re thinking, “Oh, we would love to do that,” but we can’t do everything. We’re working on prioritizing, and if we had more capacity we could do more. Perhaps have more influence in a, in a more expedient way. Ah. So we, we would welcome contributions there.

Deb Mashek:                     12:33                     Um, how many students are in the audience? Okay. How many of you are not already part of a Bridge USA chapter? So that would be an, an action item to reach out. We have a number of bridge, ah, lead, uh, members of the Bridge leadership here who can talk to you about how to start a chapter again that, that bottom up idea.

Jonathan Haidt:                 12:51                     Yeah w-, yeah and we’re going to be, um, working with, ah, Liz Joyner at the Village Square to create a sort of a speaker series. I mean, obviously most of the campus events can be just with local people, but the, the, inspired by the Robbie George, Cornell West collaboration, we’re going to try to create a lot more of those.

Deb Mashek:                     13:05                     And then I guess the last, the last action item I would offer up is to stay connected, um, get in touch, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, ah, visit the blog and whatnot. A- again, I keep saying, “And one more, and one more.” Ah. We talk about a lot on our team about the HXA way-

Jonathan Haidt:                 13:22                     Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Deb Mashek:                     13:22                     And it’s, it’s come to be this, this shorthand for moving through the world with the habits of heart and mind that enable this constructive engagement across lines of difference. And we think about it in terms of empathy and perspective taking. We’ve talked a lot about that today, but a- also intellectual humility and curiosity; admitting that chances are I was not the one person that was uniquely ordained to get everything right. I guarantee I don’t. And as soon as I am at that place where I probably get a lot of things wrong I become very curious about how you see it, and to be, um, to be able to ask, ask that without feeling defensive.

Deb Mashek:                     14:03                     So embrace the, the HXA way. And I think about if we can do that, not just in our Facebook posts but in our classrooms and in our relationships, I think the world would be a, a, a more interesting place.

Jonathan Haidt:                 14:15                     It also lowers your blood pressure.

Deb Mashek:                     14:15                     Yeah.

Jonathan Haidt:                 14:15                     Yeah.

Deb Mashek:                     14:18                     Yeah.

Jonathan Haidt:                 14:18                     Yeah.

Deb Mashek:                     14:19                     So-

Jonathan Haidt:                 14:19                     So what’s our … do we have a, a vision of success? What?

Deb Mashek:                     14:21                     W- what, yeah. Well, how about I can I ask you that one? So what do you think success looks like?

Jonathan Haidt:                 14:26                     Well, it’s, I think success looks like we go out of business because we’re not needed anymore because we’re just back to, like, a normal university.

Deb Mashek:                     14:38                     Yeah.

Jonathan Haidt:                 14:38                     I mean …

Deb Mashek:                     14:38                     Yeah, and I think, um, for me it’s where humility and curiosity replace righteousness and indignation.

Jonathan Haidt:                 14:46                     Yeah. I’ll just, just to build on that, ah, the one thing I think it hasn’t really come up much today, um, is, you know, it- it- it’s often cast as like a battle between, you know, free speech and diversity and inclusion. And there are forms, you know, of free speech you can hold, and there are forms of this that are incompatible. But what we’re seeing more and more is that the issue here is fear and intimidation, and there should not be any fear or intimidation on a college campus. And some people feel afraid to speak up because of their politics or their beliefs or because of their race or gender. Anything else.

Jonathan Haidt:                 15:18                     It all is ultimately t- they’re all branches of the same problem. And what we have, what we need, we, we have to solve all of it at the same time. They’re all diversity issues. And if we think … and we actually, we know a lot about diversity issues, we actually think about it a lot. And if we take seriously what we’re doing, what we’re saying, I think if we, I think we can address them all at the same time. That also melts away a lot of the political opposition and allows us to just, you know … we’re on a ship, the ship is kind of going down and, you know, rather than fighting with each other, we actually can work together and patch it up. It’s pretty good ship.

Deb Mashek:                     15:49                     Thank you.

Jonathan Haidt:                 15:49                     Other than that it’s sinking, but it’s a pretty good ship otherwise.

Deb Mashek:                     15:52                     Yeah, it’s a pretty good ship. Um. So we, we would like to add close with a, ah, the formal program with a moment of gratitude to our speakers, our moderators for helping us think. And what I found is very new and generative ways about viewpoint diversity in the academy. A thank you to every single person in this room. Uh, your passion and concern. The fact you’re here really emboldens our work and gives us hope, and, and that sense of I think we’re on the right track and, and we’re excited to continue forward. Um, to our sponsors, our amazing sponsors who enable this work through their generous and very much appreciated financial support and enable this conference to happen today and to our partner organizations for pulling the levers of change with this, within this and adjacent spaces.

Deb Mashek:                     16:35                     During the, ah, cocktail hour that will follow you’ll have a chance to interact with a lot of our partner organizations. So please, please do. Um, I would also like to take a moment to recognize Laura Lalinde, who you’ve seen walking around all day.

Jonathan Haidt:                 16:55                     She planned everything.

Deb Mashek:                     16:57                     She planned everything, everything you see, all these details, the branded water. The, the, this is all Laura, and, ah, we so fell in love with working with her as our event planner that we’ve also hired her to be our new director of operations, so she’s also.

Deb Mashek:                     17:11                     Yeah. And I would, I would, I would like at this time to invite other members of the Heterodox Academy core team and founding, ah, members of Heterodox Academy to please stand up.

Jonathan Haidt:                 17:24                     Yeah.

Deb Mashek:                     17:27                     And those of you who are members of our extended team: our writers, our contributors, our, ah, illustrators please stand up. Well, they might have had to leave. (laughs)

Jonathan Haidt:                 17:27                     (laughs)

Deb Mashek:                     17:38                     And I would also like to, ah, give a, ah … let’s see, what else was I gonna say?

Jonathan Haidt:                 17:38                     The members?

Deb Mashek:                     17:43                     Oh yeah. I was going to ask our members, Heterodox Academy members, to please stand up.

Jonathan Haidt:                 17:50                     All right.

Deb Mashek:                     17:51                     Thank you all for being a part of this day. Finally, now as we end the day, please join us for the reception, and even though we’re ending the day, I think we’re beginning a movement, and it’s amazing to be here with you all and to be a part of this. Have a great night.

Jonathan Haidt:                 18:09                     Thanks, everyone. See you out in the lobby. All right.

 

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A politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists, and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines and universities. We share a concern about a growing problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” When nearly everyone in a field shares the same political orientation, certain ideas become orthodoxy, dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged.

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