Reason Podcast

Heterodox Academy Fights For Intellectual Freedom and Diversity Among Professors: Podcast

Deb Mashek explains why intellectual diversity can't be optional if we're serious about higher education.


Heterodox Academy

For all the student speech that's being squashed on college campuses these days, higher education faces an even-more serious threat: intellectual conformity among professors, researchers, and scholars. Over the past 25 years, for instance, the "American academy went from leaning left to being almost entirely on the left. Similar trends and problems are occurring in the UK and Canada."

Enter Heterodox Academy, a group of academics and scholars in the humanities, social sciences, and research sciences that has its origins in a blog started in 2015 by New York University's Jonathan Haidt. The group currently claims over 1,800 professors and graduate students as members whose mission is "to improve the quality of research and education in universities by increasing viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding, and constructive disagreement."

"Ideological frameworks, including political orientation, powerfully inform the assumptions scholars and professors make, the questions they ask, the outcomes they value, and the way they interpret their data and their world," Heterodox's founding documents argue. "When campuses don't include ideologically diverse voices and don't engage seriously with dissenting ideas, students and scholars miss the opportunity for their thinking to be challenged." The group offers a wide-range of resources, ranging from a blog to a podcast to an online library of texts and videos, that are designed to help start and sustain wide-ranging, serious conversations among academics.

Headquartered in New York, Heterodox Academy recently sponsored a day-long "Open Mind" conference (you can watch the whole thing on the group's website) featuring scholars and journalists from all over the political spectrum.

I spoke with Heterodox Academy's Deb Mashek about her goals for the conference and the group. A Ph.D. in social-and-health psychology who was a full professor at Harvey Mudd College in California, she became Heterodox Academy's first full-time executive director earlier this year.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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