In this episode, Chris Martin interviews April Kelly-Woessner, Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Legal Studies at Elizabethtown College. She specializes in public opinion, mass behavior, and political psychology. She is the co-editor of The Still Divided Academy: How Competing Visions of Power Politics and Diversity Complicate the Mission of Higher Education (2011).


2:30 Marcuse reflected in a Harvard Crimson op-ed
7:21 Why political researchers mistakenly thought tolerance was increasing
8:10 Shutting down opinions reflects an insecurity about civic knowledge
12:00 Often, American government classes are taught by high school coaches
13:00 How do you teach students about political tolerance?
19:10 Are conservatives opting out of academia because of college experiences?
21:40 The role of viewpoint diversity in making people tolerant
23:35 At small colleges, students can’t self-isolate
26:28 Is there an effect among people who don’t attend college?
27:10 Social media and intolerance

Selected Quotes

“What we find is that confidence in civic knowledge correlates pretty strongly and is a good predictor of political tolerance. So if you think you know a lot relative to other people, if you think you can hold your own in a political conversation, you’re more tolerant than people who are insecure about their civic knowledge. So I think the perception of these college students protestors is that they’re ideological radicals who have these strong opinions, and yet what they data shows is wanting to shut down other voices reflects an insecurity to defend your own. So the decline in civic knowledge is a big factor in political intolerance.”

“On average, the [people] that aren’t in college are less tolerant than the ones that are. So this [rising intolerance] isn’t just something that’s just happening on college campuses. I think campuses become a spotlight for this. And I wouldn’t even say that college campuses are creating this, but I would argue that if we are serious about the mission of higher education, we have an obligation to counter it. This is the place where we are supposed to listen to other people, and to engage in ideas that are different than their own.”


You can learn more April Kelly-Woessner at her faculty page.

Her posts on the Heterodox Academy blog can be found here.

Some articles and books mentioned during the interview:

Social Justice and Social Order: Binding Moralities across the Political Spectrum

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative versus Participatory Democracy


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