*A version of this article was originally published by Reason Magazine in the June 2019 issue.
In recent years, campus trends and ideas about speech are spilling into the world beyond campus. Walking on eggshells, exercising extreme caution in respecting taboos, reporting colleagues for jokes overheard, and deflecting substantive arguments with ad hominem counterattacks may soon be common features of corporate and community life. College-bound high school students who want to master those skills can choose from a wide range of America’s top schools where this new speech culture exists.
But perhaps you (and your kids) would prefer a very different kind of academic culture: one that exposes students to a variety of views, teaches them skills of critical thinking so they habitually ground claims in evidence, and then emboldens them to speak up for what they think is true, good, and beautiful, while being open to arguments from their peers that they just might be wrong. If that’s what you’re seeking, you’ve come to the right place.
At Heterodox Academy we’ve had a front row seat on the recent trials and tribulations of American higher education. We are an organization of more than 2,500 professors who believe that viewpoint diversity and freedom of inquiry are essential components of a good academic culture. We’ve spoken with dozens of college presidents and administrators about their efforts to broaden students’ minds and promote constructive disagreement. We have found that the great majority of presidents value free speech and open inquiry, but many face obstacles in translating those values into policies and implementing those policies into practices that shape culture.
Below we highlight 10 schools that stand out from the crowd, listed in alphabetical order. These are schools—large and small, public and private—where multiple sources of information suggest that students will have better odds of developing the habits of heart and mind necessary to thrive in a world of complexity, nuance, and difference.