The Telos of a University

Jonathan Haidt's video on this topic, which I mentioned in a previous post, turns out to be excellent. It's 66 minutes long; I've watched it twice and plan on watching it at least one more time. Why should you?

He seems to assume he's talking to a Progressive audience, so his arguments are made to persuade them. That in and of itself is worthwhile if you plan to try to discuss issues with Progressives.

And he argues that:
  • gender is biological and real
  • "safe spaces" are damaging to the students they are supposed to protect
  • arguing sexism or racism solely from disparate outcomes is irrational
  • some goals of social justice are unjust
  • the telos of seeking truth and the telos of seeking social justice are incompatible for a university and, if both are sought equally, harmful to both truth and social justice

In the end, while he wants universities to publicly declare one or the other, he champions truth-seeking as the proper telos of the university.

More about Haidt below the fold.

Haidt is one of the founders of Heterodox Academy, which now has more than 200 member professors. About them:

We are all professors who have endorsed this statement:

    “I believe that university life requires that people with diverse viewpoints and perspectives encounter each other in an environment where they feel free to speak up and challenge each other. I am concerned that many academic fields and universities currently lack sufficient viewpoint diversity—particularly political diversity. I will support viewpoint diversity in my academic field, my university, my department, and my classroom.”

Heterodox Academy (HXA) has also begun publishing the "HXA Guide to Colleges":

... As prospective students begin filling out forms and looking to see which campuses fit their idea of a supportive and robust learning and social environment, they look to a range of guides and ranking systems.

While many of these ranking systems include the traditional metrics about acceptance rate, student-faculty ratio and more, they cannot tell you whether the intellectual climate is vibrant, varied, and free, or whether it is conformist and politicized. Now, there is a resource that does.

Introducing the Heterodox Academy Guide to Colleges made up of the top 150 national universities from US News & World Report college ranking guide (as of May 8, 2016). Incorporating a variety of metrics and factors, each school is given a “Heterodox Academy Score” factoring in:
  • Endorsement of the Chicago Principles on Freedom of Expression. 
  • FIRE rating (based on the school’s protections for freedom of speech) 
  • ISI Rating (a rating based on how conservative students are likely to fare at each school) 
  • Campus incidents concerning free speech and political orthodoxy


Grim said...

Did he say that "gender" and not sex is biological and real? Usually the idea is that sex is real enough, but that there's a kind of fluidity to gender expressions.

raven said...

Has anyone reading this ever been able to convince a "progressive" to change their mind on anything related to leftist beliefs?

Just curious, but I have never seen it.

Therefore I have concluded discussions on any political (and everything seems to be political these days) are a waste of time.

Tom said...

I don't think that's the point; not on the spot, at least. There are people who change over time. I used to be mostly Progressive, and now I'm mostly conservative-libertarian. That's a huge swing right.

Neo-neocon is another who changed from Progressive to conservative.

Neither my nor her change was accomplished in an afternoon debate. The anomalies to that worldview mount over years, and then one day you find yourself arguing the conservative / libertarian position against your Progressive friends. That gets you thinking, and you change.

That's the point: We need to be their anomalies.

james said...

If we consider progressivism as a religion, we might think about the implications of Rodney Stark's research. He found that people usually converted when most of their friends were of the new religion (he studied Moonies in California).

Gringo said...

Has anyone reading this ever been able to convince a "progressive" to change their mind on anything related to leftist beliefs?

I convinced myself. Nobody convinced me- nor have I ever been able to convince a "progressive" to discard his beliefs. My change from a "progressive" to a Post Liberal was a gradual process. When I worked in Latin America, I found out that the "progressive" catechism on Latin America didn't accurately describe what I observed at ground level. Little by little I found out that observation wasn't confined to Latin America.

In retrospect, much of what I saw growing up didn't fit the "progressive" catechism, so in that sense I was a skeptic ready to be converted. For example, "progressives" are convinced that they are without prejudice and that their political opponents are prejudiced. Before I got out of high school, I concluded that all of us form in-groups and out-groups, so in that sense, none of us are free of prejudice. Which I later found out was a decidedly "un-progressive" way to look at things.

I doubt we can convince other. They need to make those conclusions themselves.

Tom said...

I doubt we can convince other. They need to make those conclusions themselves.

Right, but we can help them do that.

But, just out of curiosity, have any of you ever been influenced to change a major belief by things other people have argued? In person or in writing or on video or audio?

Tom said...

Did he say that "gender" and not sex is biological and real?

It's the way he makes the argument. He doesn't specifically say either gender or sex is biological, IIRC, but he describes the chemical process the fetus goes through and relates it to natural behavior patterns in children.

One of the things he does at times that I think is effective is present contrary evidence without actually saying, "So, you're wrong." He presents it and lets the audience draw their own conclusions.

Other times, he presents his evidence and then clearly says, "You're wrong," like the idea that disparate outcomes prove racism or sexism.

Tom said...

Another point I'll make in greater detail another time is that the hard-core Progressives are a minority in this country. So, we'll never change a Progressive's core beliefs, but the majority of Americans are neither hard left or hard right; they don't have a firm ideological commitment. That's our real target audience.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Haidt is himself liberal. Still is, though you can see it weaken at every crisis.

There are converts, but not many. There was a "Why I turned Right" book a decade or two ago. I myself was once a socialist. I think Tom's point just above mine is worth considering. Hard liberals are a tribe, a religion, and leaving only comes as a personal journey. Keep trying, but don't expect much. Many others respond to a variety of symbols and tribal calls, and can be encouraged to dampen down some and plump up others.

Gringo said...

But, just out of curiosity, have any of you ever been influenced to change a major belief by things other people have argued? In person or in writing or on video or audio?

My previous belief that there were prejudiced people and then there were unprejudiced people -and that my people were of course the unprejudiced ones -was changed in high school when I saw that friends who vehemently condemned racism in the South had no problem in dismissing classmates from another town as "dumb farmers." [As I was from the "dumb farmer" town- I attended a regional high school- and all my grandparents came from farms, I tended to notice that.] That led me to the conclusion that we all form in-groups and out-groups, and none of us are free from prejudice.

But this was not exactly an example of change by hearing an argument.

When I was working in Venezuela, I purchased a book written by the Venezuelan journalist Carlos Rangel, in its Spanish language version: Del Buen Salvaje al Buen Revolucionario/The Latin Americans: Their Love-Hate Relationship with the United States. The book was a changer for me. For example, I had previously accepted the progressive narrative about the Allende era, though I actually knew very little about it. The book, which devoted a lot of pages to Allende, was an eye-opener. But it could be said I was ready to be converted, as I had already come to the conclusion that much of the progressive catechism on Latin America did not accurately describe what I observed at ground level. After reading the book, "much" changed to "about all."

One neighbor who votes Democrat but who is basically apolitical,who gets her political knowledge from watching TV, recently told me about some misdoing of Trump or of the Republicans. I cited chapter and verse to point out that Democrats were guilty of the same. "They all do it," was her reply.