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Essential Reading: Richard Shweder on the End of the Modern Academy

This post is the first in our “Essential Reading” series. These posts make it possible for readers to get the basic idea of a major work quickly. Here is the first such essay: Richard A. Shweder (2017). The End of the Modern Academy: At the University of Chicago, for Example.
Shweder describes the “modern” (as opposed to pre- or post-modern) conception of a university that was widespread in the 1960s and 1970s when he began teaching at the University of Chicago—an “ivory tower” conception in which the purpose of the university is “improving the stock of ordered knowledge and rational judgment.” He structures his essay around three ideals of the modernist university, and three threats that are now undermining those ideals. The three threats are: 1) the increasing pursuit of profit from research after 1980; 2) the rise of bureaucratic constraints on research, such as the creation of Internal Review Boards (IRBs) to govern all research; and 3) the rise of a post-modern form of expressive identity politics. This third point is the most important for our mission at Heterodox Academy, for this form of activism, when done by scholars, is sometimes in conflict with the cultivation of viewpoint diversity and the search for truth. When Shweder speaks of the “end” of the academy, it is a double-entendre. He refers to “end” as purpose or goal, but as he describes the three threats, it becomes clear that these threats may bring about the end (termination) of the modernist truth-oriented conception of a university.

Faculty Responsibility for On-Campus Policy Debates with Diverse Viewpoints

A team of graduate students and I have just completed research on the topics and participants in on-campus debates or forums with divergent viewpoints in 24 policy areas. The issues cover everything from more abstract subjects such as constitutional government, federalism and separation of powers to more specific hot button subjects such as policies about guns, immigration, and abortion. While the focus was on national issues, local policies that were the subject of campus forums with divergent viewpoint were also included.

Video of the Heterodox Academy and FIRE Panel on Viewpoint Diversity

Heterodox Academy (HxA) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) livestreamed and hosted a panel discussion in front of a packed audience last night at New York University. The discussion focused on the decline in viewpoint diversity in higher education and its impact on the quality of research, scholarship, education, as well as its consequences for American democracy. The full video is now available.

Heterodox Academy and FIRE to Host Panel Discussion on Viewpoint Diversity

Heterodox Academy (HxA) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have partnered to host a live panel discussion at New York University on Tuesday, October 10 from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

The panel will address the following pressing questions central to the future of higher education and American society: Why are many modern college campuses suffering from a decline in viewpoint diversity? Do our country’s universities prepare students for life in a politically divided democracy, or might they be teaching habits of thought that will add to political divisions? Does political orthodoxy reduce the quality of research, scholarship, and education?

Commencement Speeches: Praising Viewpoint Diversity

The need for viewpoint diversity on campus was a major theme of many commencement addresses this spring, from speakers on the left and the right. Below are excerpts. Fareed Zakaria’s address at Bucknell was particularly noteworthy; we give a long excerpt. Hillary Clinton – Wellesley, May 26 “At their best, our colleges and universities are..