In this past calendar year, Heterodox Academy has published a wide range of pieces on campus events, academic research, intellectual and political diversity initiatives, new resources, and other topics. Below, we present a selection of our most popular blog posts from 2017 that reflect the range of our mission and the ideas of our members.
Heterodox Academy defends professors and graduate students who are writing and teaching in good faith
|“The Blasphemy Case Against Bret Weinstein, and its Four Lessons for Professors,” by Jonathan Haidt, May 27|
As political passions and political polarization continue to rise, Intimidation and physical violence seem to be becoming more common as a part of our political life. Off campus, such tactics are widely used by extremists on the right, as well as the left. And not just by extremists — by a new member of Congress too. I generally oppose zero-tolerance policies, but if we are to have one, it should be for violence and intimidation on campus. Many faculty and students report being afraid to speak up openly and honestly on many issues, even in seminar classes. What will presidents and administrators do about it? What will alumni and trustees do to put pressure on presidents and administrators to do something about it? When will the faculty begin to stand up en masse?
|“In Defense of Amy Wax’s Defense of Bourgeois Values,” by Jonathan Haidt, September 2|
I think it is important for the academic community to reflect on this case. In the wake of Charlottesville, all of us on campus might encounter passions among our students beyond even what we saw in the previous academic year, a year in which violence and the justification of violence became more common on campus. This year, we are likely to find many more professors accused of “white supremacy.” Professors and administrators may face many more campaigns designed to get them to sign open letters and collectively denounce colleagues. It is important, therefore, that we think about this case carefully and draw the right lessons. When and why should professors come together to denounce and condemn other professors? Of course we are always free to dispute each other; Wax’s colleagues could certainly have written essays or a collective essay debating her claims and pointing out flaws in her reasoning, but when is it morally and professionally appropriate to issue a collective public condemnation of a colleague?
|“Lindsay Shepard and Heterodoxy at Wilfrid Laurier University,” by Raffi Grinberg, November 23|
It isn’t easy to stand up to your boss—and maintain such level-headedness while doing so—especially when your career might be at stake. At the time, Shepherd couldn’t have predicted that this would be the outcome. So, just in time for (the American) Thanksgiving, we express our thanks to Lindsay Shepherd for her integrity, bravery, and sanity under the pressure of the orthodoxy.
Heterodox Academy provides unbiased reviews of complicated research literatures:
|“The Google Memo: What Research Says About Gender Differences,” by Sean Stevens and Jonathan Haidt, August 10|
…Damore is correct that there are “population level differences in distributions” of traits that are likely to be relevant for understanding gender gaps at Google and other tech firms. The differences are much larger and more consistent for traits related to interest and enjoyment, rather than ability. This distinction between interest and ability is important because it may address one of the main fears raised by Damore’s critics: that the memo itself will cause Google employees to assume that women are less qualified, or less “suited” for tech jobs, and will therefore lead to more bias against women in tech jobs. But the empirical evidence we have reviewed should have the opposite effect. Population differences in interest and population differences in variability of abilities may help explain why there are fewer women in the applicant pool, but the women who choose to enter the pool are just as capable as the larger number of men in the pool. This conclusion does not deny that various forms of bias, harassment, and discouragement exist and may contribute to outcome disparities, nor does it imply that the differences in interest are biologically fixed and cannot be changed in future generations.
We identify viewpoint diversity trends that matter:
|“Professors Now Must Fear Intimidation from Both Sides,” by Jonathan Haidt, June 28|
But in 2017, it’s clear that the threat profile is now bipartisan. It still comes primarily from the left on campus, but now it comes from the right as well, off campus. Social media guarantees that people on each side learn of every outrage committed by the other side, while reading far less — or reading justifications — for the mob actions perpetrated by their own side. …I’d like to close with a simple request to university leaders: Please stop giving in to mobs and their demands. It may seem like the easy way out of your predicament in the moment, but it encourages more mobs to form in the future – student mobs on campus, and right-wing internet mobs off campus. When professors say something truly offensive and irresponsible (and sometimes they do), consider simply talking to them. Or establishing a procedure with clear standards – ideally one that takes a while so that the Internet circus can move on and the rage can dissipate.
|“Why Viewpoint Diversity Also Matters in the Hard Sciences,” by Joseph Conlon, January 27|
Given the known diversity of ways to do great science, there are probably also many more that we cannot directly imagine. In that the culture of science is welcoming only to the Right Sort of People with the Right Sort of Opinions, it shuts the door to those who think differently – and in doing so reduces the number of keys that get tried in the apparently intractable locks of important and difficult problems.
We present people offering unexpected or heterodox ideas
|“Van Jones’ Excellent Metaphors About the Dangers of Ideological Safety,” by Jonathan Haidt, March 2|
Last week Van Jones offered the most perfect combination of strong reasons and intuitively compelling metaphors I have ever seen to explain why current campus trends regarding political diversity are bad for students and bad for the American left more generally. Jones was a guest at David Axelrod’s Institute of Politics, at the University of Chicago. During their 80 minute discussion, with S. E. Cupp, Axelrod mentioned that he had hosted Corey Lewandowski (Trump’s former campaign manager) the previous week, which had led many students to protest the event, arguing that merely to have him on the Chicago campus would “normalize” the Trump administration. Axelrod noted that he disagrees with that thinking, and then asked Jones for his own thoughts on the question: what is the proper response when someone associated with Trump or supportive of Trump is brought onto a college campus and given an opportunity to speak publicly? What should college students do?
|“Half Hour of Heterodoxy: Arthur Sakamoto on Paradigms in Sociology,” by Chris Martin, October 10|
In today’s episode, I interview Arthur Sakamoto. Arthur is a professor of sociology at Texas A&M. Prior to working there, he worked at the University of Texas, Austin, from 1989 to 2013. He specializes in economic sociology and class inequality. He has published a number of papers on Asian Americans and their socioeconomic attainments, and papers about whether Asian-Americans are victims of discrimination in the labor market. His work suggests that Asian American men and White men have parity in the labor market. As you’ll hear in this interview, this work is controversial because it breaks the paradigm that most sociologists use. Arthur also talks about the consequences for your career if you try to publish work that challenges the conventional paradigm.
We create new resources and platforms that help foster mutual understanding:
|“Announcing OpenMind” by Jonathan Haidt, November 16|
OpenMind is a free, online platform designed to depolarize communities and foster mutual understanding across differences. Rooted in cutting-edge psychological research, OpenMind guides users through five steps to equip them with the skills to navigate the most difficult conversations. The heart of the platform is the OpenMind app, which is an easy and effective tool to use with your community because it is: Highly engaging, Data-driven, and Flexible.
|“Heterodox Academy Releases Updated Guide to Colleges,” by Jeremy Willinger, June 19|
“We designed the Guide to Colleges to help college-bound students find the right schools. But we think it will be of use to university administrators too. To create cultures of free and open inquiry, where students are not afraid to voice their views or challenge their professors, schools must be aware of how they are doing with regard to maintaining and valuing viewpoint diversity on campus”
We are scholars and researchers pursuing a mission: To improve the quality of research and education in universities by increasing viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding, and constructive disagreement. Our blog is the best place to find information about all of our work. Thank you for visiting.