Introducing Heterodox Academy
Organizing to Liberate Campuses and Scholarship From (Mostly Leftist) Dogma
Posted Nov 24, 2015
HeterodoxAcademy.org (in this post, underlined text is a clickable link) is the website for a group that a bunch of us have organized whose mission is to combat oppressive orthodoxies that dominate and distort campus and academic life. Heterodox includes some very famous and influential scholars, such as Jon Haidt, Steven Pinker, Phil Tetlock, Scott Lilienfeld, and more. We are quite a demographic and academic diversity of scholars who do not always agree with one another, but who have coalesced around the need to create a credible counterforce to what is rapidly becoming the mirror-image McCarthyism of the left on campus.
In principle, the right can be as oppressive and dogmatic as the left (e.g., McCarthyism). "My country right or wrong" never particularly appealed to me. I doubt that supply side economics solves all problems. Expelling all immigrants who are here illegally strikes me as pigheaded, ignorant, and dysfunctional.
But our focus is on colleges and universities, not the society writ large (although we would argue that colleges and universities are often powerful shapers of what society writ large will some day become). On most campuses, no rightwing presence is substantial enough to oppress anyone. Hell, there is no libertarian presence, no moderate presence, no presence other than left to extreme left on a great many campuses. 96% of campaign donations from Harvard went to the Obama; and I obtained a similar figure for Rutgers.
Most of my best friends voted for Obama** (I am purposely not telling you who I voted for here, so please do not read this as a statement of my voting). This is not about who is better, Democrats or Republicans. This is about the dangers of a stifling ideological monoculture on campus to both students and scholarship.
** Duh. I am a professor. Most of the folks I know are academics or have advanced degrees. I would have hardly any friends at all if I did not have leftist friends.
Around campuses, speakers and writers are routinely subject to protests, disinvitations, vilifying criticism, and being shouted down if they have the unmitigated gall to, e.g.:
Suggest some or many aspects of modern feminism are misguided.
Claim that affirmative action is dysfunctional.
Argue that some psychological and behavioral differences between some groups might have derived from the different evolutionary adaptation pressures on different continents.
Present evidence that many stereotypes are accurate.
Present evidence that children of gay or lesbian parents are not necessarily as psychologically well adjusted as parents of heterosexual parents.
Criticize Islam, as a religion and/or set of cultural values and/or political ideology. (If any readers know of writers or speakers shouted down, ostracized, or protested for criticizing any other religion on U.S. campuses, please comment and point me to the source. If this is my own blindspot, I would happily correct it).
The dangers here are many:
1. We do our students a massive disservice by not challenging their cherished beliefs. We fail as teachers to teach students the most important skill -- how to think.
2. By doing so, even, or especially, if one sees the justice in many goals typically emphasized by the left (eliminating bona fide oppression and prejudice; giving people who, perhaps, have not had the fairest shakes in life a shot; equality of opportunity and equality before the law -- all social justice goals that I strongly support), one is reducing the college generation's ability to advocate and fight for such goals by atrophying their ability to defend such goals by never exposing them to strong counterarguments.
3. Perhaps most important, the Social Justice Warriors of the left have, ironically, been creating an environment of intolerance that has elements of mirror-image McCarthyism to it. If you think that goes too far, look at this post regarding the extent to which people have been intimidated by the left on campuses. "And no one taught the students how to live in a free and open society with people who disagree with them" (quote from Pamela Paresky's terrific Psych Today Post).
At HeterodoxAcademy.Org you will find:
1. A slew of terrific blog entries that both expose this new creeping tyranny of the left on campuses, and proposals for solutions
2. Resources to support anyone wishing to mount a credible, social science based challenge to unjustified academic orthodoxies passing as scholarship
3. A list of who we are, generally with links to our personal pages, where you can usually find a wealth of credible, scholarly information on climate science, political science, psychology, law, and sociology -- information that often contests cherished leftist narratives.**
** Often, not always. The members of Heterodox are unique (in my experience) in that they reach conclusions based on the data far more than on the basis of their personal preferences or politics or advocacy agendas. As such, the data sometimes really do actually support leftwing worldviews, values, and narratives. And when they do, this crew is not afraid to say so. But, and in contrast to many of our colleagues, we are also not afraid to say so when it contests those views.
And, to be clear, I am not saying Heterodox is the only source for such academics. There are many even-handed scholars who are not members. Typically, however, such voices have been drowned out, ignored, intimidated into silence, or suppressed, by the drumbeat of (mostly) leftist narratives on campus.
People may be dogmatically left or right, but data rarely are.