Heterodox Academy welcomed Michael Regnier as its new Executive Director on August 8, 2022. Regnier joins HxA with a background in nonprofit management and policy and deep experience advocating for viewpoint diversity in education. A longtime member of HxA, Michael co-founded LEEP Dual Language Academy, Brooklyn’s first Spanish immersion charter school, which quickly grew to serve over 400 families across two campuses. Previously, he served as Director of Policy and Research at the New York City Charter School Center.
To help HxA’s members and friends get to know the person behind the title, we asked Michael a few questions:
Q. What drew you to HxA?
A. I was spoiled! As a student, I had professors who didn’t agree with each other and certainly didn’t expect me to agree with them, but their passion for reasoning and debate left a deep imprint. I want that educational experience for my former students and my own children, and HxA is one of the most exciting groups working to revive it. That’s why I originally joined as a member, and why I’m now proud to be on the team.
Q. From your perspective, why are open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement important for higher education and society in general?
A. I like to think about this long-term. Looking back from 10,000 years in the future, maybe humans will say that 2022 was the year we figured everything out. Maybe this is the year our theories are all true, our evidence is impeccable, and our moral reasoning is pure. If so, it really might make sense to marginalize anyone who disagrees.
But if, as I believe, we’re still a long way from perfection, then we need some cultural practices that help us spot new ideas and potential mistakes — and not tear each other apart in the process.
Q. Reflecting on your time founding and running a charter school and working in related policy and research, what can higher education learn from charter schools?
A. I think successful charter schools have a way of imparting students with a sense of agency and responsibility, without asking them to ignore social problems or pretend the world is perfectly fair. Many colleges could learn from that, and they might be surprised by how attractive it is to prospective students and their families.
Q. What gives you hope for the future of higher education?
A. Dynamism. There’s still room for change, for starting new institutions and re-inventing old ones. It’s hard to predict which forms will emerge to give us better education and research, but most people probably underestimate how much higher education will change in the coming years.
Q. How do you like to spend your free time?
A. My wife and I have three school-age kids. We live in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn to which her family immigrated from Lebanon and Syria about a century ago, which keeps us rooted. I teach Sunday school, take our greyhound for walks, and listen to podcasts on high speeds. My kids love to make fun of me about that last one.
Q. Is there a book, film, play, or piece of art that particularly influenced you and/or that you would recommend to HxA members?
A. On the theme of viewpoint diversity, Arnold Kling’s The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides has really stuck with me. So has an essay by SlateStarCodex with a great title: “I can tolerate anything except the outgroup.”
Q. What are you most looking forward to about joining HxA?
A. I’m eager to connect with our members and work with them to engage in new ways, while we keep growing in numbers of members as well. There are thousands more students and faculty who should be HxA members but don’t know it yet.