On January 11, John Leo, editor of “Minding the Campus,” interviewed social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, one of the editors of the five-month-old site, “Heterodox Academy,” and perhaps the most prominent academic pushing hard for more intellectual diversity on our campuses. Haidt, 52, who specializes in the psychology of morality and the moral emotions, is Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU’s Stern School of Business and author, most recently, of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012).
JOHN LEO: You set off a national conversation in San Antonio five years ago by asking psychologists at an academic convention to raise their hands to show whether they self-identified as conservatives or liberals.
JONATHAN HAIDT: I was invited by the president of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology to give a talk on the future of Social Psychology. As I was finishing writing The Righteous Mind, I was getting more and more concerned about how moral communities bind themselves together in ways that block open-minded thinking. I began to see the social sciences as tribal moral communities, becoming ever more committed to social justice, and ever less hospitable to dissenting views. I wanted to know if there was any political diversity in social psychology. So I asked for a show of hands. I knew it would be very lopsided. But I had no idea how much so. Roughly 80% of the thousand or so in the room self-identified as “liberal or left of center,” 2% (I counted exactly 20 hands) identified as “centrist or moderate,” 1% (12 hands) identified as libertarian, and, rounding to the nearest integer, zero percent (3 hands) identified as “conservative.”
JOHN LEO: You and your colleagues at your new site, Heterodox Academy, have made a lot of progress in alerting people to the problem that the campuses are pretty much bastions of the left. What kind of research did that prompt?
JONATHAN HAIDT: There have been a few studies since my talk to measure the degree of ideological diversity. My request for a show of hands was partly a rhetorical trick. We know that there were people in the audience who didn’t dare or didn’t want to raise their hands. Two social psychologists – Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers short did a more formal survey. And they found that while there is some diversity if you look at economic conservatism, there’s none if you look at views on social issues. But all that matters is the social. That’s where all the persecution happens. They found just 3-5 percent said they were right of center on social issues. .
JOHN LEO: Have you gone into the reasons why?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Oh, yes. After the talk, I was contacted by a few social psychologists who were interested in the topic. None of them is actually conservative. We looked into a bunch of the reasons. And the biggest single reason is probably self-selection. We know that liberals and conservatives have slightly different personalities on average. We know that people with a left-leaning brain are attracted to the arts, to foreign travel, to variety and diversity. So we acknowledge that if there was no discrimination at all, the field would still lean left. And that’s perfectly fine with us. We don’t give a damn about exact proportional representation. What we care about is institutionalized disconfirmation – that is, when someone says something, other people should be out there saying, “Is that really true? Let me try to disprove it.” That is now much less likely to happen if the thing said is politically pleasing to the left.
JOHN LEO: But what about the argument that things are really tough for conservatives in academe now? After they get through college, they have to find a mentor in graduate school, keep swimming upstream and try to get hired somewhere by a department head who’s looking for another leftist. And conservatives can run into cruel and aggressive people in academe.
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes. That’s correct.
JOHN LEO: To many of us, it looks like a monoculture.
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes. It is certainly a monoculture. The academic world in the humanities is a monoculture. The academic world in the social sciences is a monoculture – except in economics, which is the only social science that has some real diversity. Anthropology and sociology are the worst — those fields seem to be really hostile and rejecting toward people who aren’t devoted to social justice.
JOHN LEO: And why would they be hostile?
JONATHAN HAIDT: You have to look at the degree to which a field has a culture of activism. Anthropology is a very activist field. They fight for the rights of oppressed people, as they see it. My field, social psychology, has some activism in it, but it’s not the dominant strain. Most of us, we really are thinking all day long about what control condition wasn’t run. My field really is oriented towards research. Now a lot of us are doing research on racism and prejudice. It’s the biggest single area of the field. But I’ve never felt that social psychology is first and foremost about changing the world, rather than understanding it. So my field is certainly still fixable. I think that if we can just get some more viewpoint diversity in it, it will solve the bias problem.
JOHN LEO: Oh, that shows up on your site, “Heterodox Academy.” It’s had a big impact in the small time you’ve been open. Why is that, and how did you do it?
JONATHAN HAIDT: We started the site back when we knew that our big review paper would be coming out. Five of my colleagues and I worked to write this review paper, beginning after my talk in 2011. It took us a while to get it published. Paul Bloom at Yale was the editor at Behavioral and Brain Sciences. He thought that it was an important paper. So we knew that it was coming out in September. And we thought, we don’t just want a little bit of attention and then it’ll go away. We want to keep up the pressure. And, along the way, we were contacted by people in other fields — a grad student in Sociology, Chris Martin, who now runs the blog, a professor of law at Georgetown, Nick Rosenkranz – both these guys had written about the absence of diversity in their own fields. And one day last summer, I was having lunch with Nick here in New York. And we thought why don’t we get people together who are concerned about this and make a site? And Nick thought of the name, “Heterodox Academy.” I loved it. I thought it was just perfect
JOHN LEO: It says what it stands for.
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes. We had no idea that the universities were about to commit suicide. We had no idea that they were going to blow up just a few weeks after we launched the site. So we launched in September. I wrote a post about our big review paper in social psychology. And we got a lot of attention the first week or two. Then it died down. And then we get the Missouri fiasco, the Yale fiasco, the Amherst fiasco, the Brown fiasco. You get place after place where protesters are making demands of college presidents, and college presidents roll over and give in.
JOHN LEO: So you got a lot of attention.
JONATHAN HAIDT: Since Halloween, especially. Look, I graduated from Yale in ’85. Yale is very devoted to social justice. It’s very devoted to affirmative action. Now no place is perfect. But it’s probably among the best places in the country. And to have protesters saying it’s such a thoroughly racist place that it needs a total reformation – they call the protest group ”Next Yale”– they demand “Next Yale”!
JOHN LEO: Everybody saw that.
JONATHAN HAIDT: And these were not requests. This was not a discussion. This was framed as an ultimatum given to the president – and they gave him I think six days to respond, or else. And I am just so horrified that the president of Yale, Peter Salovey, responded by the deadline. And when he responded, he did not say, on the one hand, the protesters have good points; on the other hand, we also need to guarantee free speech; and, by the way, it’s not appropriate to scream obscenities at professors.
JOHN LEO: Or the threat to one professor: “We know where you live”?
JONATHAN HAIDT: I didn’t even know about that. The president was supposed to be the grown-up in the room. He was supposed to show some wisdom, some balance, and some strength. And so we’ve seen, basically what can really only be called Maoist moral bullying – am we saw it very clearly at Claremont McKenna. The video is really chilling–the students surrounding this nice woman who was trying to help them, and reducing her to tears. As we’ve seen more and more of this, I’ve begun calling it, “the Yale problem,” referring to the way that left-leaning institutions are now cut off from any moral vocabulary that they could use to resist the forces of illiberalism. As far as I’m concerned, “Next Yale” can go find its own “Next Alumni.” I don’t plan to give to Yale ever again, unless it reverses course.
JOHN LEO; How did they cut themselves off?
JONATHAN HAIDT: They’re so devoted to social justice, and they have accepted the rule that you can never, ever blame victims, so if a group of victims makes demands, you cannot argue back. You must accept the demands.
JOHN LEO: Michael Kinsley once referred sardonically to one unhappy student as “another oppressed black from Harvard.”
JONATHAN HAIDT: Did you see that website, The Demands.org? Lots of people know how ill-conceived the demands are and what would happen if our universities all set out at the same time to reach 10 or 15 percent black faculty.
JOHN LEO: Are you a Democrat?
JONATHAN HAIDT: No, not anymore. Now I’m non-partisan. I was a Democrat my whole life, and I got into political psychology because I really disliked George W. Bush. And I thought the Democrats kept blowing it. I mean, in 2000, 2004, they blew it. And I really wanted to help the Democrats.
JOHN LEO: So you voted for Obama.
JONATHAN HAIDT: Twice. I no longer consider myself a Democrat today. But let me be clear that I am absolutely horrified by today’s Republican Party – both in the presidential primaries and in Congress. If they nominate Trump or Cruz, I’ll vote for the Democrat, whoever it is.
JOHN LEO: To get back to the lopsided faculties – -what are the chances of cracking anthropology or sociology?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Anthro is completely lost. I mean, it’s really militant activists. They’ve taken the first step towards censoring Israel. They’re not going to have anything to do with Israeli scholars any more. So it’s now – it’s the seventh victim group. For many years now, there have been six sacred groups. You know, the big three are African-Americans, women and LGBT. That’s where most of the action is. Then there are three other groups: Latinos, Native Americans….
JOHN LEO: You have to say Latinx now.
JONATHAN HAIDT: I do not intend to say that. Latinos, Native Americans, and people with disabilities. So those are the six that have been there for a while. But now we have a seventh–Muslims. Something like 70 or 75 percent of America is now in a protected group. This is a disaster for social science because social science is really hard to begin with. And now you have to try to explain social problems without saying anything that casts any blame on any member of a protected group. And not just moral blame, but causal blame. None of these groups can have done anything that led to their victimization or marginalization.
JOHN LEO: No. Never.
JONATHAN HAIDT: There used to be this old game show when I was a kid, called “Beat the Clock.” And you had to throw three oranges through a basketball hoop. Okay, that doesn’t look so hard. But now you have to do it blindfolded. Oh, now you have to do it on a skateboard. And with your right hand behind your back. Okay. Now go ahead and do it. And that’s what social science is becoming.
JOHN LEO: Well, but there’s always a possibility of truth and accuracy. I mean, why is the professoriate so…
JONATHAN HAIDT: Spineless? Nowadays, a mob can coalesce out of nowhere. And so we’re more afraid of our students than we are of our peers. It is still possible for professors to say what they think over lunch; in private conversations they can talk. But the list of things we can say in the classroom is growing shorter and shorter.
JOHN LEO: This sounds like the Good Germans.
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes. Exactly. It is. It’s really scary that values other than truth have become sacred. And what I keep trying to say – this comes right out of my book The Righteous Mind – is that you can’t have two sacred values. Because what do you do when they conflict? And in the academy now, if truth conflicts with social justice, truth gets thrown under the bus.
JOHN LEO: Talk about The Righteous Mind a bit. How did you develop this system of three moral foundations among liberals, versus six or eight for conservatives?
JONATHAN HAIDT In graduate school, I was very interested both in evolutionary psychology, which seemed obviously true, that we evolved and our brains evolved; and in cultural psychology, which seemed obviously true – that morality varies across cultures. One of my advisors was Alan Fiske, an anthropologist. And my post-doc advisor was Richard Shweder, another anthropologist. And they both had developed accounts of exactly how morality varies. And they were both brilliant accounts, but they didn’t quite square with each other. And so I, I tried to step back and build up a case from evolutionary thinking – what are likely to be the taste buds of the moral sense? Things like reciprocity, hierarchy, group loyalty. So the theory grew out of ideas from Richard Shweder, in particular, and then it’s been developed with my colleagues at YourMorals.org.
JOHN LEO: When conservatives read this, they’re going to say, gee, we have more moral foundations than they do. Is there an advantage in having more?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Well, it certainly isn’t a game where more is necessarily better. One of my conservative friends argues that having one moral foundation is dangerous, because you’re much more likely to develop a kind of a mania about it. And, since the Halloween eruption at Yale, I now think much more that he’s right. That if you make anything sacred and, in this case, if you make care for the vulnerable your sacred value, and that becomes more important than anything else, you’re liable to trample all the other values. So I do think there’s a danger to having a one-foundation morality
JOHN LEO: So how did you assemble the team you have at “Heterodox Academy”?
JONATHAN HAIDT: It started with lunch—myself and Nick Rosenkranz. And then I right away emailed an introduction of Nick to the various other people I’d come across, especially my five co-authors on the BBS paper. And that was the core. And then we just talked about, like, okay; who’s in political science? Well, there’s, you know, some guys who were just writing a book about the experience of conservatives in the academy. Let’s invite them. So we just used our network of people we know. We’re up to about 25 people now. We don’t actually know how many conservatives are in the group. We know it’s less than half.
JOHN LEO: What about libertarians?
JONATHAN HAIDT: I think we’ll have more libertarians. When you find diversity in the academy, it tends to be libertarians. You rarely find social conservatives. And so I’m thinking of doing a survey of our members. Because I think we ought to know. Paul Krugman recently referred to our site and described us as “outraged conservatives.” I looked back through all the essays we published and failed to find outrage. Krugman just assumed outrage because we think there should be more diversity in the academy.
JOHN LEO: What happens to the academy now? You used the word ”die.” Is it dead or dying? Most academics think it’s just aflutter. They seem to have no idea that something important happened at Yale.
JONATHAN HAIDT: The big thing that really worries me – the reason why I think things are going to get much, much worse – is that one of the causal factors here is the change in child-rearing that happened in America in the 1980s. With the rise in crime, amplified by the rise of cable TV, we saw much more protective, fearful parenting. Children since the 1980s have been raised very differently–protected as fragile. The key psychological idea, which should be mentioned in everything written about this, is Nassim Taleb’s concept of anti-fragility.
JOHN LEO: What’s the theory?
JONATHAN HAIDT: That children are anti-fragile. Bone is anti-fragile. If you treat it gently, it will get brittle and break. Bone actually needs to get banged around to toughen up. And so do children. I’m not saying they need to be spanked or beaten, but they need to have a lot of unsupervised time, to get in over their heads and get themselves out. And that greatly decreased in the 1980s. Anxiety, fragility and psychological weakness have skyrocketed in the last 15-20 years. So, I think millennials come to college with much thinner skins. And therefore, until that changes, I think we’re going to keep seeing these demands to never hear anything offensive.
JOHN LEO Like micro-aggression, trigger warnings, safe spaces and different forms of censorship for anything that bothers them?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes, that’s right. Even much of the gender gap in STEM fields appears to result from differences of enjoyment-–boys and girls are not very different on ability, but they’re hugely different in what they enjoy doing. Anyone who has a son and a daughter knows that. But if you even just try to say this, it will be regarded as so hurtful, so offensive. You can get in big trouble for it. And that’s what actually showed up in the article I have online where I gave a talk at a school on the West Coast, and a student was insisting that there’s such massive institutional sexism, and she pointed to the STEM fields as evidence of sexism….
JOHN LEO: Is this the talk you gave at a high school you called “Centerville”?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes, “Centerville High.” That’s right. That’s exactly what this was about.
JOHN LEO: Where the girl stood up after your talk and said, “So you think rape is OK?”
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes, that’s right. It’s this Marcusian rhetorical trick. You don’t engage the person’s arguments. You say things that discredit them as a racist or a sexist.
JOHN LEO: How do they learn that? The young don’t read Herbert Marcuse.
JONATHAN HAIDT: I don’t know whether they get it from one another in junior high school or whether they’re learning it in diversity training classes. I don’t know whether they’re modeling it from their professors. I do believe it’s in place by the time they arrive in college. And colleges are teaching this. Now, some colleges are much, much worse than others. We know from various things we’ve read and posted on our site, that liberal arts colleges – especially the women’s schools – are by far the worst.
JOHN LEO: Women’s schools are worse?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Nobody should send their child to a women’s school any more. And that’s especially true if you’re progressive. The last thing you want is for your progressive daughter to be raised in this bullying monoculture, and to become a self-righteous bully herself.
JOHN LEO: Well, that’s one of the things I learned from your site. I kept debating with friends whether the closed mind, all the PC and the yen for censorship were there before they arrive at freshman orientation. But I hadn’t see it written about until Heterodox Academy came along.
JONATHAN HAIDT: I wouldn’t say the game is over by the time they reach college. I would just say, they’re, they’re already enculturated. But that doesn’t mean they can’t change. Kids are very malleable. Kids are anti-fragile. I would say there’s some research suggesting that by the time you’re thirty, your frontal cortex is set. So after thirty, I don’t think you can change. But at eighteen, I think you still can. So my hope is that universities will be forced to declare their sacred value. I hope we can split them off into different kinds of institutions–you know, Brown and Amherst can devote themselves to social justice. Chicago is my main hope. The University of Chicago might be able to devote itself to truth. They already have this fantastic statement on free speech, making very clear that it is not the job of the university to take sides in any of these matters. The university simply provides a platform.
JOHN LEO: Yes, that’s just one university though.
JONATHAN HAIDT: But that’s fine. As long as you have an alternate model, then other universities can copy it. But more importantly is this – here’s the one reason for hope – almost all Americans are disgusted by what’s happened to the universities.
JOHN LEO: You mean the micro-aggression, the trigger warnings and the censorship?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yeah. The craziness on campus. Almost everybody says, you know, shut up, grow up, stop complaining. And this is even true for people on the left. And so, there’s a gigantic market of parents who don’t want to send their kids to Yale and Brown and Amherst, and they want to send them someplace where they won’t be coddled. And so my hope is that if there are some prestigious alternatives where their kids actually could learn how to survive hearing things they don’t like, and that market forces will lead a stampede to less coddling schools.
JOHN LEO: But what about the craving for elite credentials, no matter how bad the school really is. A lot of parents will send their kids anywhere, to the mouth of hell, if they can get a Yale degree.
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yeah. Well, look, Chicago’s pretty darn good. Chicago’s a very prestigious school. I don’t know what Ivy could join them. …
JOHN LEO: Well, Columbia still has the Great Books course.
JONATHAN HAIDT: Columbia is very PC. Columbia’s not, going to be it. So, another reason for hope is that more and more progressive professors and presidents are being attacked. And each time they’re attacked, they usually feel quite bitter. And at some point we’re going to get a college president who has been attacked in this way who sticks his or her neck out and says, enough is enough; I’m standing up to this. I also hope and expect that alumni will begin resisting. That’s something we’re going to do at “Heterodox Academy.” We’re going to try to organize alumni and trustees.
Because the presidents can’t stand up to the protesters unless there is extraordinary pressure on them from the other side.
JOHN LEO: After the Duke fiasco, I made a point of looking into the alumni reaction. Resistance at Duke fizzled out very quickly. Stuart Taylor, Jr., co-author of Until Proven Innocent, the classic study of the Duke disaster, predicted that Brodhead would never get another term as president of Duke, or any other college. Not so. Despite the mess he made of things, they gave him a big, new contract. The forces upholding dereliction and folly are very strong.
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yeah. Duke was one outrageous case. This, “The Yale Problem,” is a much more existential threat to the whole system. It’s very hard to organize alumni for collective action. But if there’s a widespread sense of revulsion out there, then I think it might be more possible. You asked, how has “Heterodox Academy” been able to be so successful so quickly? And the basic answer is, we’re pushing on open doors. Most people are horrified by what’s going on. And when we ask people to join or support us, they say, yes. If we can find an easy way to organize alumni and get them to put their donations in escrow, or otherwise stop giving to schools that don’t commit to free speech and free inquiry, we may begin to see schools move away from illiberalism and return to their traditional role as institutions organized to pursue truth.
77 thoughts on “A Conversation with Jonathan Haidt”
Fantastic interview! Dr Haidt is right on about the distaster which is colleges and universities in America today. And while I can understand his revulsion toward the Republicans and their nominee, after all he’s said and written about political correctness on college campi, I don’t understand how he then go ahead and vote for the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. If any political party is leading this illiberal movement toward PC and the demise of free speech, it’s the Democrats. I fear that Clinton will only double down on stifling free speech, and even more so use the coercive power of government to stifle views contrary to the Left and SJW’s. It seems like such a intellectual disconnect coming from a brilliant and insightful man like Dr Haight.
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Leonard Peikoff saw a lot of this coming in his 1982 book “The Ominous Parallels: The End of Freedom in America” . . . . but because he is aligned with Ayn Rand (anathema to both liberals and conservatives), he was ignored.
This is an interesting article. I wish there was some examples of truth and accuracy as he stated regarding professors being afraid to express them in the class. Also of the blaming the victim for their position in life. If there is such a deficit there should be numerous examples.
Something that I did find interesting was the Good Germans comment, because I have seen people preach in class tolerance then discriminate and hold prejudice in private and I believe this is the state of the US we live in now where people hide their true feelings due to the backlash they may receive, which is scary. This revolves around the idea of being PC. You hear this rhetoric from Trump supporters, I love him because he’s not PC. Is PC something bad, I ask? I wouldn’t want to be in a class where the teacher calls blacks niggas that are lazy? Or Gays are going to hell and women just can’t do science because they should be in the home? Is that what we need to diversify? Allow these people to hold courses and guide research? I think you will return to early sociology that was based on psudo science. I have heard from students who had teachers who were not PC and they felt attacked for being muslim and that they didn’t feel like they got a fair chance at an A because of their demographics. I know there are people out there who are not PC but if you are in a public institution shouldn’t they have to treat all people the same?
For me, being PC comes to having tact when discussing issues. You can talk about blacks being shot by police as a result of their behavior, in essence, blaming the victim, but talk about it like that and not that blacks are thugs or genetically predisposed to violence. You can talk about gays being different just don’t bring in religion into the reason for them being bad, since everyone is not christian.
The comments regarding the marcusian rhetoric is something that both sides, liberal and conservative use. So I do not think that is a one sided response mechanism, it is something that people use to maintain their beliefs rather than critically assess their position. I don’t believe the left in climate change because they are socialist, I don’t believe the right in attacking yemen because they are from the right. Yes those arguments are weak.
What I do agree with is that Sociology is dominated by social justice and I am wondering why that is a wrong thing. Should we not strive to treat all people the same? There are 3 factions of sociology – basic, public and applied. The applied is the social justice aspect, public is the one that tries to influence political policy making and basic is somewhat philosophical/theoretical. So I think if you think of sociology as a science you can avoid ideological influence.
The only real solution is to replace the federal system with the Hellenic polis system. Let there be a thousand city-states that have environment and community most attractive to their type of citizen; socialist to SF, Christian to SCand so forth. Let each state establish their own social, economic and foreign policies.
We could always argue about anything but the only way to settle the debate is via competition between the polises. The best and the strongest system will beat out others. There is no chance in Hel that 300 million will agree on much anything. Smaller communities will be better for both civil peace and search for truth.
I noticed anthropology mentioned as an activist field by Dr. Haidt …. I would suggest that the situation is worse than this. The dynamic discipline of anthropology had largely been supplanted by faux-activism and race-class-gender studies. Most of my colleagues know little to nothing of classical anthropological theory. They have a superficial knowledge of third-rate Left Bank philosophers of 1960s-70s, but they know little about the dynamics of human culture. Anthropology is inert.
Mr. Haidt, thank you very, very much for your frank discussion. In the ’50s, when American university professors were majority right of center, even someone like history professor Eugene Genovese – publicly declared Marxist at the time – averred that he was treated with utter respect by his colleagues, and that he could share his theories and thoughts openly, without fear of repercussion. Since then, the professoriat has leaned much farther left, leading to the “horror” you describe. Pew Research has found that about 40% of today’s university students do NOT believe in free speech and exchange of ideas, and many of those favor abolishing the First Amendment.
Yet you also describe being “horrified” by today’s Republican party, who bear no responsibility for the horrors going on inside universities, and who believe far more strongly than their Democratic opponents in First Amendment rights, including free speech.
You’re a far smarter man than I, so I have a sincere and open question: do you feel any cognitive dissonance with those two “horrors”? What am I missing here?
Yes. On many an American campus, thoughtcrime is punishable.
“Liberals claim to be open and tolerant to all points of view but are shocked and offended when they discover there ARE other points of view.” — William F. Buckley, Jr.
The reason the humanities and social sciences attract those with “left leaning brains” is because they’ve been dumbed down. They are an easy way to assert authority, have a job where nothing needs to be produced and where they can pronounce their moral authority without fear of competition.
The ‘how’ and ‘why’ all this happened is well chronicled; “The Closing of the American Mind” may have been the opening salvo in the culture wars but there were rumblings and warning which went unheeded for quite sometime before than.
I must take issue further with the Haidts idea that those with “left leaning brains are attracted to the arts, to foreign travel, to variety and diversity”. That’s just an amazing stereotype. Conservative enjoy the fine arts, literature and music-what they don’t like is the blurred distinctions between what is truth and beauty and a bunch of post modern whining drivel posing. They are probably more adventurous that Hiadt seems to want to believe. As to “variety and diversity” what do they mean? Variety might be the spice of life but its not the end all and be all. Moreover diversity for its own sake is a zero sum game which, in the final analysis means gerrymandering, ethnic and racial chauvinism and quotas. So for Haidt to say that he doesn’t give a damn about “exact proportional representation [in the humanities and social sciences] is kind of a joke. Both are shot and its not the conservatives who did it. Nor for that matter did they start the culture wars.
Lastly, I find liberals like Haidt to be passive/aggressive and generally ruled by emotions not reason and certainly not faith. And the reason, which I alluded to, they divided themselves into “tribal moral communities” is quite simple: they hate competition.
There is no such thing as “social justice”. Such justice as can exist is limited to force-backed methods for resolving disputes about material things and infringement of personal rights.
Groups have no rights.
There is no such thing as a victim.
No one has any right to even live, only to not be unlawfully put to death, let alone rights to other goods/services respect or status.
Broad boulevards, cannons, and machine guns were created to deal with those deluded fools who believe in ‘social justice’.
Conservatives want it both ways. On one hand, they decry the “unfair” practice of affirmative action, despite the relatively good arguments that could be made for the role universities could choose to play in promoting change in class structure (and particularly for African Americans, who spent hundreds of years in slavery or slave-like conditions and continue to be the number one target of discrimination in the US). On the other hand, they expect science to bend over backwards to accommodate ideology. For that is EXACTLY the argument. The argument is obviously that politics has, and should have, some hand in shaping science. Aside from the fact that science and politics are orthogonal, this idea of marrying the two is contrary to the whole idea of science. Regardless of the political leanings of the scientist, s/he cannot do science AS an ideologue. That’s not doing science.
I understand that Haidt’s point goes beyond the social sciences, but of course they are an easy target for him. Psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists always catch an outsize load of **** talking from conservatives, but yet, if you actually study or work in social sciences departments, there is a lot of counterargument to politically correct thinking. You wouldn’t believe, in fact, how counter some intelligence scholars are. But their theories don’t come from politics… not the good ones’, anyway. They come from observation, logic and intuition.
But the greater fact is… it’s absurd to choose people on the basis of their political leanings, be they left or right. To go out searching for righties is a hell of a quest, too. It’s absurd to say that universities discriminate on the basis of politics. It’s not like there are tons of out of out of work conservative PhDs who can’t get jobs on college campuses. And you’re right, in all likelihood. Liberals tend to test higher on “openness to experience” on FFM personality tests and “investigative” and “artistic” on RIASEC. Theyare probably more likely to pursue “ivory tower” jobs than conservatives, whose interests on RIASEC tend to be more “enterprising.”
And don’t kid yourself… there are PLENTY of conservative college campuses out there. The thesis of the Closing of the American Mind is as much bunkum today as it was when Bloom published it in the late 1980s. Conservatives have always hated the freedom of thought inherent in liberal arts education. Unlike many liberals, however, I don’t believe that the goal of conservatives is mind control. Not exactly. It’s to mint “practical” types who go out into the world to do important things, like running companies, and not unimportant things, like making pottery, writing poetry, doing social work or making music… You know…. things that you *supposedly* don’t need college to do.
Ahem, conservatives… Isn’t it your belief that private institutions should be allowed to do as they please? That’s a cornerstone of modern conservative doctrine. So, what if they want to promote diversity through selection? Maybe they can state that as part of policy. Would you then cry “discrimination”? Also, what if they *DID* want to hire liberals? Who are we to tell them who to hire and not to hire.
You can’t have it both ways.
I tend to think liberals don’t want competition which is why they ‘run home to mama’ to the only place their ideas and ideals can take root-the schools. I tend to blame John Dewey for the general dumbing down of the schools of humanities and social sciences. They are an easy place to hide, preen the moral superiority and never have to be held accountable. Oh and “The Closing of the American Mind” was not exactly the opening salvo in the culture war as there were rumblings and warning for quite sometime before then. They went unheeded which is why the humanities and social sciences are pretty much shot.
And, we must correct the socialist revision history of our Nation and leaders so we can stop making the same mistakes of the past, tell and teach our citizens and the world the true history of America. What you were taught in school and college is not the truth. You must only rely on period documents, which thank God, are today available for free on the Internet.
I sincerely hope people will become “horrified” by what is happening in our “colleges” and more importantly what is happening in our K-12 schools! I have been warning and writing about the socialist revolution for many years that socialists/communists (liberals/progressives) were and have infiltrated our education systems and were brainwashing successive generations of our children to support socialism and become good little obiadent communists. All this swung into gear in the very early 1960s under the camouflage of the “free sex and drug” flower power distraction… American individualism, independence and freedom are going by the wayside and will continue to deteriorate until our Nation is a communist country under a one-party totalitarian communist regime. There will come a point – soon – when we are unable to stop this long running communist revolution and socialization of our beloved nation. We must unite and fight back, whatever it takes, regardless of political party affiliation, to confront and defeat the real danger to the People and our Nation… a “new communism”.
Been following Haidt’s work for some time but somewhat disturbed by his statement “. . .But let me be clear that I am absolutely horrified by today’s Republican Party – both in the presidential primaries and in Congress. If they nominate Trump or Cruz, I’ll vote for the Democrat, whoever it is.” how can Haidt hold himself out as being open minded when he is willing to embrace the moral horror that these two Democrat candidates represent? Put aside the horror that is abortion, put aside the fiscal wreck Democrat political party machines have imposed on cities and states, but we have two candidates, one an advocate of redistributive socialism and the other a child of such a perverse ‘crony capitalism’ as to shock any true ‘Democrat’ (if any exist anymore). Suggest Haidt ought to read his books as if they were written by someone else and embrace that while he has met the enemy, the enemy (in the words of Pogo) is himself.
Mr. Haidt seems to be baffled by where these young people are getting their propensity to cry racism or sexism. Who teaches and prepares these teachers who are teaching these kids in middle and high schools? Universities. It’s like a trickle-down victimhood that finds its way to all schools, including preschools. Another item that hit me like a taser to the face is the lumping together of spanking and beating. Maybe he wasn’t equating the two, but it sounded like it. I agree that kids are not fragile, but they are also not innocent, wonderful and virtuous coming out of the womb. When they put adults to the test, they need to be disiplined to reinforce the idea that there is something greater than themselves. Nothing accomplishes that like a careful and loving spanking. And last, if you think that Cruz is as dangerous as Trump, you’re just not paying attention. I love the article though.
Very thought provoking (am I still allows to say that?)
John Leo – Would like you to expound more about your comment about ‘Cokumbia has the Great Books program.’
Show of hands, how many people think slavery and bigotry are a good idea? Clearly educational institutions are lacking ideological diversity if almost no one believes this, or maybe these ideas are just being tossed into the dustbin of history by intelligent and well educated people, just like social conservatism is.
You miss the point entirely….but you illustrate the Marcusian Rhetorical ‘Trick’ quite effectively.
No one thinks slavery and bigotry are good ideas…not even your demonic social conservative believes slavery and bigotry are good ideas. It is unfortunate, though, that you yourself seem to think so narrowly, to parse your world so simplistically.
Sadly, for too many on the left, to disagree with any portion of the Social Justice Agenda…to object to the racism so evident in Affirmative Action….to point out the lies, the massive exaggerations, the irrationality which characterizes the so-called Rape Epidemic …to simply ask the loudly tantrum’d protesters What Exactly Is It, that you find so offensive…. to do any of these things is to find one’s self knee-jerk tarred & feathered by all those True Believers as just another Pro-Slavery, Pro-Rape, Anti-Woman, Racist, Sexist Bigot.
As Prof. Haidt points out — far better to think, to engage, to actually examine reality and see how it might challenge and even change one’s programmed preconceptions. I would strongly recommend it.
But you will find it much harder.
This writer reveals a profound lack of understanding of both goal and the actual method of Affirmative Action. Of course, bdav152 is not alone. Few to none both within and without corporate organizations…particularly the HR people responsible…had sound understandings of these matters…AAPs for government contractors (companies with contracts paid for by the American people and their taxes). Clearly, some people should sit down and shut up or otherwise seek out someone who might educate them as few as that may be.
Absolutely eye opening article. This is a huge problem. College liberals are probably the most bigoted, hateful, and close minded segment in our country. These ivy schools are disgusting and an embarrassment. All this on top of the fact that more and more a college education is getting you nothing but debt.
Thank you for this. I was not aware of Heterodox Academy, but it is much needed. I quit donating to my alma mater (Cornell) and going to their reunions (the last one was a Kerry rally) over 10 years ago, and just recently unsubscribed from all their email lists.
When I was an undergraduate, conservatives were a small minority, but that was tolerable. Now we are at best invisible, at worst scorned, and that is not. I sent my youngest daughter to Cornell, and now regret it. She came back brainwashed, and it nearly destroyed our formerly close relationship, until we both just avoided politics altogether.
I enjoyed reading this article and its honesty about the state of academia. I heartily agree that the millenials are commonly overly coddled and incapable of dealing with setbacks ; constructive criticism is now viewed as a personal attack. I’m a retired surgical specialist and I had been an attending faculty member and taught at the predoc and post the socail sciences doc levels. Papers have been published in many of the specialty journals describing the changes described in your paper in too many of our surgical residents. Remediation , for a lot of reasons, is now accepted in predoc education versus the fear of dismissal for failure to comply to established and accepted standards. Suffice to say that the life of the surgical resident is “softer” than it used to be. If this is happening in our basic science realm of academia I shudder to think what
is happening in the social sciences.
I am among the horrified. A graduate of the University of Michigan. No longer a donor. My daughter was indoctrinated at Mizzou – and is still recovering. My sons resisted that process at Albion College and Hillsdale.
I also live in a state college town in Michigan and have noticed a thread among the university staff I interact with: they read only affirming headlines and do not question the authenticity or verifiability. I have been surprised by the simple lack of knowledge on topics despite strong opinions, e.g., in a very general back and forth on voting in the upcoming elections, a passionately liberal university friend denied that there are areas of the country wherein voters are not required to present identification to vote. “That’s not possible” she insisted even tho a couple of us outlined that activity and lawsuits working their way thru the courts re: voter ID as a discriminatory practice. “That’s just not happening”. From personal experience, these people seem uninterested in fact or circumstance. They prioritize what they feel about any given issue and when pushed on this will relate one story they read or heard about for, say on the ObamaCare issue, how this one person was able to get a life-altering operation they would not otherwise been able to afford. This in response to complaints about the current rate paid by healthcare for everyone else standing there. It seems to be an argument that if something works for a few, it should be accepted by all. No facts or ideas on how it could all work better if…. So what I come away with is the perspective that liberals are well-intentioned but uninformed and unwilling to accept or acknowledge blame for the peripheral and unintended effects of their ideas, programs, et al.
My father would have described this as unable to see the forest for the trees.
Bottom line the humanities and social sciences (HSS) are getting squeezed in favor of STEM. To combat this the HSS have ginned up their students into a frenzy. The demands may be asinine buy they have one thing in common, they all read like a jobs Bill for HSS professors and administrators. The administrators who almost all come from HSS quickly agree to the demands in an academic version of sue and settle. The administrators can then argue to their funders be it the state or alumni that their hands are tied they agreed to the funding for HSS.
This is all one big scam so HSS professors can keep their jobs.
When I took my Child Development Psychology course at American River Junior College in 10 years ago, they had a section on corporal discipline. The author stated corporal punishment is always wrong, except in black families where it’s an act of love and survival. They claim blacks live in such hostile environments that their parents need to have to their children respond and obey quickly like soldiers in order to protect them from emergency circumstances in their neighborhoods. As if other groups don’t live in such grinding dangerous neighborhoods. PC craziness.
This was a true Sunday morning treat (after Mass with no longer a NYT’s subscription). I have been a fan of Mr. Leo since his U.S. News days and our whole family has read Mr. Haidt’s The Righteous Mind.
Hope is for dopes but I now have some faith in our diminishing culture.
Great article! Good luck with your Academy. However, the root cause you’ve identified — “coddling” — was decades in the making, and I fear that it will take generations to reverse.
My 28-year-old son brought up the subject just yesterday. He was questioning how the PC world came about. Now I have an
article to share.
Let’s summarize the stand of the contemporary student: “I demand that you remove any statue, name, honorarium or program that offends me personally. I demand that you insert courses into the curriculum that reflect my personal race, political leaning du jour, gender, sexual identification or lack thereof, and general philosophy of life and culture. I demand that you hire faculty and staff in precise proportion to my specific perception of fairness. In short, I demand that you tailor this institution from root to fruit to suit ME, ME, ME!
This was probably one of the most intellectually gratifying interviews that I’ve read on this topic in a long time. Until now I really hasn’t heard about the Heterodox Academy movement, but I’ll definitely look into it more now. I find it disgusting how dissenting voices are being trampled on in college to the point where I’m telling my 6 year old that if anybody ever tries to take away her right to speak her mind to yell it out even louder regardless of the position of authority that person holds
So Mr. Haidt keeps voting for the politicians who foster the climate of intolerance when it comes to opposing points of view, then raises the alarm? Good Lord.
There are very few conservative professors in colleges today. No diversity when it concerns the hiring of conservative professors. THEY ARE RARE.
This article makes me understand more fully what I have noticed about most elite universities. I believe the reason there are so many thinking that Socialisn is better than what our founding fathers set up in our Constitution is mostly taught in colleges. I is so sad. There is nothing easier to do than to influence a gullible college student and it has been done by liberal professors. Decent morality is gone.
Lack of competition in the marketplace of ideas at the university level delivers a well trained, hyper-(D) partisan mind, that’s atrophied for lack of healthy debate.
Someone who’s had to negotiate life without that malarkey will have a less partisan, scrappy(less trained), mind with less atrophy.
Neither are ideal hires. The ivory towers that are our universities will need a change from the outside if the US hopes to be competitive. Otherwise, they’re failing our nation and might need a haircut.
No, people are not appalled, “conservatives” are. This is another kerfluffle entirely orchestrated by the fascist wing of politics in this country. Why are most professors and instructors liberal? Same reason the overwhelming majority of scientists are; liberals and the left value education more, and statistically are better educated than the right. Quit whining, get a graduate degree, or go teach in one of the academic hell holes like Liberty college that has no liberal, or intellectual or factual, value at all.
Ever hear the old adage “Those who can’t do, teach”? The best and the brightest are certainly NOT those who go on pursue ever higher graduate-level degrees in order to become professors in anthropology or social studies. Ironically, the article clearly states (based on various studies) the harder sciences (think medicine, mathematics, biology) are not as lacking in diversity, which essentially undermines your argument.
The way it worked at the Liberal Arts college that I attended was: If you weren’t smart enough to cut it in math/astronomy/science or pre-med, you got a biology or economics/finance degree or did pre-law. If you couldn’t cut it in bio or econ, you tried for communications, philosophy or journalism. If you still couldn’t cut it, then you went into sociology, teaching, ethnic studies, or one of the other social science departments.
ever looked up from your navel?
Perhaps Heterodox Academy might try to enlist the support of Bloomberg, who might put his considerable resources behind the effort to reform campuses. He did give a very good commencement speech at Harvard in 2014 on the subject of the lack of diversity amongst the faculties of our institutions of higher learning, wherein he noted that the politburo of the old USSR was more diversified.
This was a generally hopeful article or interview, ‘though somewhat disheartening when it came to current presidential candidates. The abrupt dismissal of Trump or Cruz, wherein the interviewee stated that he would vote for the democrat if either of them were the republican candidate, contained no argument and is surely akin to the PC positions on campus that he so rightly condemns. The reductio ad absurdum of that line of reasoning would countenance a vote for a congenital liar with no moral compass, or an avowed socialist whose policies would take the country down the path of Venezuela. O me miserum!
You are so right! We should affirmative action for conservatives to get into academe. Those poor guys are just not fortunate enough to do it by themselves.
Of course, sterotyping is always wrong, except when it’s Right.
It is bad in private industry too. There are many HR administrators who are every bit as bad as the Yale President when it comes too “forces of dereliction and folly”.
They do it out of fear of lawsuits. But this cannot be entirely blamed in the lawyers. The jurors have to be complicit, so they too take blame.
Yes….but also no.
Prof. Haidt’s insights into this, the Age of the Campus Tantrum are astute, and his embrace of ‘anti-fragility’ as a potential ‘cure’ for the madness is exactly on target. But I fear he still steps a bit too cautiously around some key points.
He tell us, “We know that people with a left-leaning brain are attracted to the arts, to foreign travel, to variety and diversity. So we acknowledge that if there was no discrimination at all, the field would still lean left. ” This assertion is tied, of course, to the question explored at some depth at Heterodox Academy: “Are Conservatives Really Simple Minded?”. The answer, of course, is ‘no’ (underlined by the finding that Conservatives use Haidt’s 6-8 ‘Moral Foundations’ to Liberal’s supposed 3)… but this conclusion is also significantly undermined by the mistaken notion that “linguistic complexity” (typically linked to ‘liberal’ thought) somehow signifies a ‘higher’ level of being. It does not. Or rather our understanding of what is truly simple or complex, and what that means, is itself significantly flawed…as is the conclusion that the Academy is and will be naturally left-leaning (because ‘we all know’ liberals more than conservatives like ‘the arts, foreign travel, variety, and diversity’).
The Academy pendulums like everything else pendulums, historically weaving in response to (or reaction against) the same political/cultural/social rhythms we see in the world beyond the campus. Founded essentially to ‘conserve’ knowledge (our given, direly earned understanding of the World)… established to preserve it, share it, and build it, block by block, each new insight piled atop another… the University existed in parallel to the Church (and for quite some time as a direct accessory to the Church) as the keepers of Truth (with a capital “T”).
Was this Truth a conservative Truth? A liberal Truth? A libertarian, socialist, royalist, whateverist Truth?? In actuality it was none of those things, it was simply believed to be The Truth – a Truth arrived at through intense study, exposure to the Arts, Travel, Diversity & Variety. So were these academicians liberals? Conservatives? Economic Libertarians? Democractic Socialists? What??? The question is meaningless. Political labels (which we so dearly love and insist upon using despite their hollowness) have themselves also waxed and waned, evolving as the world evolved.
The Enlightenment, however, pushed the University away from the Church (becoming more…liberal?) ….finding Truth, instead, in Science, transcending old dogma. And, of course, it is from the Enlightenment that the ideal of a classic, traditional “Liberal Arts Education” developed (though much of it was, indeed, founded in Ancient Greek/Medieval tradition).
Today, of course, a classical, deeply traditional Greek/Latin/Great Books kind of education, founded upon universal values & universal truths, would be typically considered to be quite Conservative (at least by some lights). Naturally, therefore, it is mostly abandoned by the colleges which carry its name. They have adopted, instead, an essentially post-modern kind of cultural Marxism in which Multiculturalism, Sustainability, Diversity, Identity Politics & Relativism all hold sway.
Why worry about Truth when our priority is Social Justice? As Harvard’s Ms. Korn put it, “No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?” That end-justifies-the-means thinking quickly gave birth to the outrageous demands of the perpetually aggrieved victims (the 70-75% segment Haidt references), captured most ‘eloquently’ in the ransom note from Amherst: “a statement of apology to (all) who have been victims of … injustices including but not limited to our institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism.”
This, of course, is not enlightenment – this is the absolute darkness of unquestioned dogma.
Prof. Haidt also points admiringly to the University of Chicago’s Report from the Committee on Free Expression and its staunch support of the Right of Free Speech. He suggests that Chicago’s efforts might very well serve as our first and best Hope to turn away from the Religion of Social Justice preached by the majority of our elite institutions of Higher Education. But when he rightfully decries the dogmatic rejection of truth in favor of Social Justice (“if truth conflicts with social justice, truth gets thrown under the bus”), he fails to recognize that Chicago’s statement is really not all that much better . Peter Wood in his essay, “The University of Chicago’s Flawed Support for Freedom of Expression” speaks to this point:
“In an era when student activists on many campuses are attempting to silence expression of views they disagree with, the University of Chicago statement is a welcome counter-measure. It is easy to see why principled scholars and organizations concerned about the integrity of the university are drawn to it. But I urge caution. The Chicago statement is, in effect, half a loaf. And sometimes half a loaf can be worse than none. The basic problem with the statement is that it presents a context-free defense of freedom of expression. It does not offer any reason why such freedom is important and, in the absence of such a reason, it amounts to an endorsement of much of what is currently wrong with our colleges and universities. ” More specifically, as pertains to this discussion, he notes: ” The statement ignores the need for true speech.”
Academic Freedom / Freedom of Expression is not an end unto itself — it is a means to a higher end. And if we sacrifice Truth in a misguided effort to protect Expression (the very thing Prof. Haidt rightfully despises), we have lost the most of ourselves — discarding the Baby while protecting the Bathwater. And though Chicago’s effort to re-sacralize Free Speech is admirable, especially in light of today’s tantrum’d intolerance, it does not go far enough…offering as it does, simply the blessing of a common platform to exchange conflicting views, no matter how false.
The Academy, ideally, should lean neither left nor right but should stand most centrally upon Truth. Truth, as arrived at through wisdom, accumulated through study & thought. Experience reduces complexity. Wisdom smooths & untwists what seems unruly and knotted. The best solution is, indeed, the simplest that solves…the most elegant…the most effective. Goldbergian Mousetrap Thinking can be entertaining…and demonstrate an amazing command of the non-essential…but it doesn’t produce the mousetraps we would buy. And Truth, in its most elegant form, becomes simpler and simpler the more we come to understand it.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Ernst Schumacher
Good article, and a good project, by a good man, a former liberal, who still has many liberal sentiments, but an honest one, who is finally waking up to where the SJW leftists are hijacking his institutions. One caution, he says he is hoping the alumni will finally put their foot down and end the SJW insanity. But given enough years of this, most of the alumni will be SJW fanatics as well, then who will stop it?
If I’m not mistaken I might be the “conservative friend” Haidt refers to in this interview. I know I’m one of the three conservatives mentioned in the acknowledgements of “The Righteous Mind.”
I’m not a social scientist. I’m not in academia. I’m just a guy who likes to read and write about this stuff, and who wants to help, as Haidt says, “build bridges.”
One of, if not the, greatest obstacles to bridge building is, in my opinion, the existence of a small number of hugely influential assumptions upon which almost all political debate rests that happen to be false.
I’d like to elaborate on some of the things Haidt said by making five points. Of course, this is all just my opinion – my two cents – that I offer for consideration and possible further inquiry. But I think you’ll see there’s merit here.
Point 1: The Yale Problem Begins in Kindergarten, not high school. http://theindependentwhig.com/2015/11/25/the-yale-problem-begins-in-kindergarten/
Think about the posters about good citizenship on the walls in elementary and middle schools. Think about the summer and school year reading lists our kids work through as they ascend through the years.
They are heavily weighted toward, if not exclusively focused on, the one-foundation morality of social justice.
The seeds of the Yale problem are planted in kindergarten, and are nurtured all the way through primary education. As Haidt said in the interview, the problem is already “in place by the time they arrive in college.”
Point 2: Brain types and style of thought
Pay close attention to Haidt’s use of the phrase “People with left [or right] – leaning brains.” It’s tremendously important.
Just as there are different physical body types (e.g., ectomorph, endomorph, and mesomorph), so too, I believe, are there different brain types. For better or for worse (I think worse, because it conflates separate things) the best labels available at this point in time for the different identifiable brain types are “liberal,” “conservative,” and “libertarian.”
Ideologies are not merely social constructs. They’re different configurations of cognitive wiring; different ways of logically connecting the dots of the evidence we see in the social world; they’re even different ways of perceiving.
Moral foundations are “evolved psychological mechanisms” of 1) social perception, 2) cognition of the intuitive elephant and 3) reasoning of the rational press secretary rider.
Point 3: Balance is good, imbalance is bad.
Moral Foundations Check and Balance Each Other.
Haidt calls the first three foundations – care/harm, fairness/cheating, and liberty/oppression – the “individualizing” foundations because their primary focus is on the autonomy and well being of each individual; each bee in the hive of society.
The latter three foundations – loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation – he calls “binding” because their focus is on facilitating the formation of cohesive groups of individuals; the hive of society.
Individualizing and Binding, aka Shweder’s ethics of autonomy and community, are opposing forces, competing concepts. The autonomy of each individual bee is unavoidable somewhat restricted by the necessary realities of cooperation within the hive.
The great struggle of all societies in the entire history of mankind has been to find the proper balance between the individualizing and binding; between autonomy and community.
And since social action is almost always a response to a previous action, the target is constantly moving.
I believe history proves beyond reasonable doubt that societies thrive when they find balance, and flounder and sometimes fail whenever a subset of foundations is allowed to dominate the others and balance is lost.
THAT is the subject of JUST ONE of the many books that could be written on the basis of MFT: How Societies Prosper, and Why They Fail.
Point 4: The culture war is not what we think it is
Haidt’s data shows that the right-leaning brain and personality tends to weight all of the foundations more or less equally. It holds the opposing ideas of autonomy and community simultaneously. It tends grasp, both intuitively and rationally, a concept described by Thomas Sowell: “There are seldom true solutions, mostly there are just tradeoffs.”
The left-leaning brain and personality tends to heavily weight the first three foundations, and of those three mostly just “care.” It’s not balanced. It’s all bee all the time, and it tends to see the binding foundations only as sources of oppression that need to be swept away. The left tends to trust that there’s ALWAYS a solution, and if we apply enough reason we can find it.
I am conservative, and on the surface a strong critic of liberalism.
But the God’s honest truth is that it’s not liberalism, per se, that I rail against; it is ANY and ALL moralities that lack balance and allow a subset of moral foundations to run roughshod over the others. Liberalism just happens to be the most prominent of those. If libertarianism dominated our culture the way liberalism does then I’d be railing against that instead.
All of this is prelude to the real concept of my fourth point.
The war between left and right, rightly understood, is NOT a struggle between individualizing on the left and binding on the right, nor is it a battle between “change” on the left and “stability” on the right, nor is it a contest between Yin and Yang.
It is a struggle between a force that tends to disrupt balance and one that tends to seek it;
It’s a war between a lopsided moral system of just a few foundations focused almost entirely on the individual, and a comprehensive system of all of the moral foundations focused on balancing the desires of the individual with the necessities of the hive.
The dogmatic, unthinking, intractable, hiding-in-plain-sight, assumption that the culture war is between individualizing/autonomy/change/progress and binding/community/stability/resistance is a MASSIVE LOG in our collective eye, in our collective consciousness – a Shakespearian tragedy of mistaken identity that creates Sorcerers Apprentice grade mischief – that prevents us from seeing what’s really going on, and thus also prevents advancement of knowledge and the development of effective ameliorative measures.
Point 5: The Education System is The Cause AND the solution.
There will always be liberalism and conservatism in some form or another. I’m convinced that our innate groupishness is natures way of ensuring that there’s always somebody out there who can see the speck in our eye. It’s how knowledge is developed.
But the education system as it currently stands, with it’s near laser like focus on reinforcing ONLY the individualizing foundations and demonizing the others is preventing that from happening. It is creating the Yale problem. It is exacerbating the false assumptions we hold about each other.
And therefore it is within the education system where any hope of amelioration lies.
It’s not that hard. By the end of a school year, make sure the posters about good citizenship have reinforced ALL the foundations. Make sure, but the end of the school year, and by the end of high school, books assigned to our kids have extolled the virtues and values of ALL the foundations, not just half of them as is generally the case today.
In later grades, after our kids have matured to the point at which they’re capable of abstract thought, actually teach the moral foundations in a non-partisan way. Show THAT the foundations exist, show THAT different positions on political issues are based in different configurations of foundations.
Demonstrate that the different configurations of moral foundations correlate with different conceptions of words like “liberty,” “equality,” “justice,” and “fairness” and that because of those different conceptions left and right are often talking past each other; each dumbfounded as to how for example, “justice” can possibly be achieved through the policies of the other side.
Humans are, and always will be, groupish. We will like to be around people who are similar to ourselves. We gravitate toward others who share our value systems. And through from that groupishness political parties naturally form.
And that’s a good thing.
What is NOT good is that neither side truly understands where the other is “coming from,” and that both sides speak different languages.
There’s no reason that the education system cannot give our kids a common language, and every reason it should.
Groups, factions, parties, will always exist, but at least they’d be able to communicate, and not talk past each other.
And with a better grasp of human nature, the leaders who eventually emerge would have more empathy and understanding of people different from themselves, and would therefore have a much better chance of developing social policies coincident with human nature, and more successful at doing the most for the most.
@The Independent Whig:
That you for taking the time make your post. I found it very informative!
I stopped donating to my crazed liberal arts school some years ago. It has gotten worse since then. I’m not going back. Raising awareness among alumni is the key.
“I don’t know whether they get it from one another in junior high school or whether they’re learning it in diversity training classes.”
It’s a form of intellectual immaturity wherein anyone who disagrees with them is seen as having bad, if not outright evil, motives. It’s also an inability to understand other points of view and offer counter-arguments. What’s sad is that college should mitigate this problem instead of making it worse.
He said he’s “horrified” by the front running Republicans and will vote for a socialist or criminal instead of one of them. He’s exbhit A of everything he’s talking about. He drinks the very Koolaid he condemns.
I have taught medical students for 14 years. They seem to be immune, so far, to this insanity. A few years ago, two of my female students invited me to attend a performance of “Vagina Monologues” and I declined. They consider me a harmless old fogey, I suspect, but my evaluations have been good so I soldier on. The worst of the pathology seems to be isolated to the least useful fields of study. I ask your pardon for that observation but it seems pretty obvious.
I don’t get this Haidt guy all slamming Trump and Cruz (although I don’t support either of them–especially Trump), but then not making the connection to this entire conversation about the war he’s fighting in academia. Dude, you still have blinders on… Though I really applaud your website and enjoy reading it, you really have to see that you’re still camping with the enemy.
These are all good points, with one quibble. There is nothing wrong with being devoted to social justice; it is only when social justice is the only value in an academic setting, that there is a problem. There are even plenty of conservatives who are devoted to social justice, but who differ from liberals as to how that is accomplished and what it looks like.
A quibble with your quibble…
What, exactly, is social justice?
We talk a lot about it…lots of seminars…lots of speeches…. lots of “strike a pose” voguing going on…. and I’m sure people are probably majoring in it somewhere (or will be soon). Almost everyone I know says they’re all for it (yessirreebob!) But what is it, really?
Economic equality? Social equality? Cultural? Educational? Personal? Genetic? Familial? A historical/ongoing ‘fairness’ rubric which guides and governs every human transaction? State mandated, enforced, and defined?
Are we to raise up everyone who is somehow ‘lower’ than us? And diminish everyone who is somehow ‘higher’? And where exactly is that justice peg point (where I am? where you are? or Sally down the block?) Who defines it? Who controls it?
If you’re faster than I am…if you win every race… is that socially unjust? Suppose you do so because you have a better coach? Is that socially unjust? Suppose you get rich because you’re so fast? That must violate some kind of social justice standard. Suppose you’re faster just because you’re faster…or because you work a whole lot harder? Suppose I’m slower because I prefer to drink 2-3 beers every evening and watch a lot of game shows? Is that just?
Long way of saying, no, there is a lot wrong with being devoted to ‘social justice’. It is an empty, mythologically fantastic concept which has no real-world correlate — nor should it, nor can it. It does not exist and in a free society it will never exist. Each of us is born unequal — one to the other — and each of us steps into this life exactly upon the absolutely unequal social/economic/political/cultural platforms provided by our parents. This is neither just nor unjust; it is simply reality.
That we exist in perpetual inequality goes without saying …the question is what do we do with all these inequalities which both bless us and haunt us. Will we be the heroes of our lives…or will that role be played by another.
And now, I suppose, we should also ask: or will some Social Justice Maven (some Handicapper General — Diana Moon Glampers) step into our lives and make everything all better?? As long as I’m being made ‘better’ at someone else’s expense — sure, what a great idea!
When I read The Righteous Mind, I kept telling myself “It’s only a matter of time before he voluntarily leaves the left, or the left kicks him out. No truth seeker (and I believe Haidt to be one) can stay on the left, as the modern left is all about supporting various narratives, all other priorities rescinded.
I wonder what he has against Cruz, though. I would be very disappointed in him if he yet again voted for an corrupt, incompetent whacko just because he has a D next to his name.
It would be further evidence for the Significant Emotional Event theory, that it’s required for serious values reorientation.
“If they nominate Trump or Cruz, I’ll vote for the Democrat, whoever it is.”
Signal harder, Haidt. See, this is why I do not place a lot of trust in you.
Wow, with education entrenched doing this at the college and apparently the high school, and probably earlier, it is hard not to think that America and Western Culture is doomed……
Thank you Jonathan Haidt, and keep up the good fight. I hope you are right there is still time.
I wonder how many parents are proud of their little Maoists? It’ll be amusing to see how those thugs will survive after college.
The interviewer writes, towards the end of the but, “The forces upholding dereliction and folly are very strong.” And what you said that seemed to prompt that in part is, “Because the presidents can’t stand up to the protesters unless there is extraordinary pressure on them from the other side.”
“If they nominate Trump or Cruz, I’ll vote for the Democrat, whoever it is.”
I do not believe Trump will be an effective countervailing force against the results of 8 years of extreme leftist rule by fiat, a term essentially unopposed by the GOP, or even troubled by so much as being required to often employ a veto pen.
It seems your dedication to diversity does not extend to so little as moving in any degree back to respect for the constitution in law.
I read your book, The Righteous Mind, and enjoyed every word of it. It was one of the most enlightening books I have read. I am very conservative and a strong supporter of Ted Cruz. However, I am not horrified to learn that you are horrified of him. I believe you are capable of having a meaningful conversation with him in the unlikely event the occasion arises. You would listen, perhaps learn something from him and vice-versa. I doubt that it could lead to a shouting match. Keep up the good work.
After discussing at length and acknowledging the outrageous, freedom-suffocating Maoist realities of modern progressive politics as inflicted on the masses in academia, this guy is still going to vote for the progressive presidential candidate, because the current crop of Republicans scare him. Yeah, I’ll bet matters’ll get a whole lot better if Hilary! ever gets her claws on the Department of Education. Jesus Christ.
I have no respect for the opinion of a person that voted for Obama in 2012. Morons don’t deserve to have a valued opinion. No matter their vocabulary.
My daughter is taking anthro in university right now. She was assigned three articles about “globalization” and they were all negative… stating how the local culture is changing due to the introduction of western companies. The assignment is to write an opinion paper on the topic. My daughter’s opinion is that globalization is worth it since it grows the local economy. I warned her that she may want to lie and just write about the damage to the local “culture” since her prof is probably biased. She said “So what…. I’m gonna write what I think!” Good for her… and we will see how the grading works out… haha.
Very lucid. I would only disagree on the Israel-Palestine point. Obviously it is ridiculous to present “Muslims” as an oppressed people, but Israel does oppress the Palestinians, really. I have no problem with campus activism devoted to highlighting the miserable situation there, and pressuring Israel to either permit a two state solution or allow Palestinians full democratic rights. Ought there be a way to separate that kind of activism (typically carried out by a coalition of liberal Jewish and Arab kids) from the other nonsense.
Completely disagree with your point. First, it’s obvious where you stand on this conflict, and that is way left. Many people in the center, like myself, believe the situation in Israel is caused primarily by Palestinian leadership over the last 20 years. It is Palestinian leadership that is oppressing their own people and teaching hate and violence, which has led the Israeli public and govt to build walls and (rightly) fear Palestinians. And if you look to Canadian Universities (York, Concordia, etc.) you see that it is the Jewish students on campus that are threatened – not the “Arab kids”.
Ironically perhaps, what Jay wrote is a good example of the polarisation that Haidt has spent much time decrying. Scott suggests a more nuanced view that sounds like it is based on experience, avoiding conflating justified concern or understandable anger with an over-protective bubble. Someone then classifies that opinion as ‘way left’, apparently in order to marginalise and dismiss it and propose a better ‘belief’, without providing evidence for that belief. Thus an ‘opinion’ is used as a social marker rather than being an informed perspective on facts. What threats precisely do you refer to, and how representative are they numerically? Is the ‘fear’ generalised among a group of people actual evidence of where power lies? How do people react to being feared? Is the phenomenon of informed foreign students of different backgrounds uniting to promote what they see as justice not real?
It should be pointed out also that the academic boycott of Israel, at least as articulated by the main organizations calling for BDS, does not call for zero contact with Israeli academics or intellectuals generally: it calls for boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It may be a fine distinction for Haidt, and no doubt it would make it more difficult for Israeli academics to communicate with colleagues outside of Israel, but it is different from cutting off all contact with Israeli academics.
When I read Haidt’s Righteous Mind, I noticed that it seemed there were lots of positive mentions of Jews. It’s been a little while since I read the book, but it seems to me all of them were positive), but all mentions of Muslims were negative. I was left wondering if he does not have an ethno/religious bias that would make it difficult for him to grasp what’s wrong with Zionism.
My mum was a middle school teacher in the UK (11-15 years old) before she retired a few years ago and often reported that exact same Marcusian rhetorical trick being used by the kids.
They would apparently torment teachers by just reporting to the school that they’d said something racist (which of course, teachers almost never actually do).
I don’t think it’s taught. I think it’s learned. I’ve always thought it’s a general rule that any potential holes in a value system will very quickly be exploited and manipulated. It happens in almost a Darwinian fashion.
Keep up the good work Mr Haidt. A lot of people agree with you on this.
This is a riot. Let me get this straight. You wonder why less than 1% of professors are conservative at your meeting. Then you say
“But let me be clear that I am absolutely horrified by today’s Republican Party”
Are you not aware enough to see how your own attitudes toward conservatives is what has led to the bias in the academy? When you actually think in an biased way and then can say to your lefty friends, “I see things differently than 60 million of my fellow conservative Americans, but I value their point of view” we mght get somewhere. You validate and empathize with every oppressed and alienated group in America, but can’t or won’t empathize or begin to understand conservatives. Ask yourself why? Think about how outcast, truly outcast you would be…
Re read this article with a genuine inner thought about your hypocrisy. Then call me or write me and we’ll talk.
It’s complicated. Once you are accused you start living a short story by Kafka. In the end, like Humpty Dumpty, all the lawyers, journalists, and administrators can never put you back together, again.
The Roosevelt University student newspaper, THE TORCH, seems to have purged its files of this story. The link to it leads to an error. Thankfully, there are other sources.
“One student that filed a complaint, Cristina Solis, has spoken out…saying that she does not regret her decision to complain. “If that is what it took to give him a reality check, and to make sure that no other student has to go through that, maybe it’s for the best,” she said.
The hyper-racialized bitterness and cultural disdain that is the leading intellectual product of the social sciences and ‘the humanities’ has taken deep root and is getting very wide notice. With intense partisan polarization in close parallel, how long before political violence results? Violence, that is, beyond the epic gun play still endemic in and near black, urban ghettos and the so-far-anomalous mayhem of Baltimore? Can a national tipping point be distant?
That a degree-less radical black nationalist who spits racial antipathy for whites with every pronouncement, Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a hero of American liberals, in general, but the darling of the academy, especially, is proof positive the modern scholastic left is, frankly, irredeemable.
This quibbling on the margins about ‘viewpoint-diversity’ among social psychology faculty is–I’m sorry to say–a trivial farce: too little, too narrow and much, much too late. There is no academic counterbalance in the offing. Indeed, the contempt of elites for common people of pallor, the heartland and most of the nation’s traditions is about to be reciprocated outside the academy in bold strokes. In particular, this horrible racial Balkanization-by-design is backfiring in the worst ways, and activist educators will be much to blame.
As most any will tell you, fervent mono-cultures do not diversify voluntarily. To think otherwise is the Haidt of naivete.
PS: Ex post facto trigger warning: this blunt talk is probably too much for readers, even in this space, to tolerate.
I am a professor – fortunately in the physical sciences. Doubly fortunately at a Catholic university that has a spine.
But the left wing media- politico(Democrat)- education complex is never satisfied and we will be in the cross hairs soon.
I recommend home schooling for grades K-8.
Jonathan Haidt is admirable for his courage in confronting his peers about their political mono-culture. He unfortunately is also astonishingly naive as to his own politics. He notes with apparent pride of having twice voted for Barack Obama. Is he not aware of the notorious “Dear Colleague” letter addressed to universities over the country by Obama’s D of E which is fostering a lack of due process in “rape” accusations, and is contributing to the rape hysteria on our college campuses? He excuses this on the grounds of how much he disliked George Bush. I understand this since I once harbored a similar animus against Richard Nixon, and voted against him every time he appeared on my ballot (about six times if I remember correctly). The only vote I truly regret however, starting with Adlai Stevenson in 1952, is the one I cast for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, because I didn’t like Barry Goldwater. LBJ proved himself to be the worst president of my lifetime, and Goldwater turned out to be a rather moderate Senator.
The Liberal project, with all its malodorous offshoots, is a seamless garment, extending from the executive to the foundations, to the “Captains of Erudition”, all the way down to the lowliest adjunct professor. In this respect, it resembles the National Socialism of the1930’s. Haidt says that even now he will not vote for either Trump or Cruz. Well and good in the case of Trump—I won’t vote for him either. As for Cruz, I would advise him to hold his fire. There are worse candidates than he, including the two Liberal contenders for the Democratic nomination.
As a lifelong conservative, I have found how much I don’t know by reading Jonathan Haidt’s books and writings.
I’ve bought and gifted over a dozen of his Righteous Mind books to family members who are far too wrapped up in their singular pursuit of social justice…..trying to throw conservative traditionalists like me under the bus.
While I detest evangelism, the fact is that unless you can touch each radical liberal through careful consideration of their own biases which adjusts their attitude….one never can and never should expect behavioral changes.
It’s complicated. Once you are accused you start living a short story by Kafka. In the end, like Humpty Dumpty, all the lawyers, journalists, and administrators can never put you back together, again.
The Roosevelt University student newspaper, THE TORCH, seems to have purged its files of this story. The link to it leads to an error. Thankfully, there are other sources.
“One student that filed a complaint, Cristina Solis, has spoken out…saying that she does not regret her decision to complain. “If that is what it took to give him a reality check, and to make sure that no other student has to go through that, maybe it’s for the best,” she said.
If you are really a conservative, you would not say that you “gifted” anything to anyone.
Joe – you forgot the sarcasm tag. It is interesting that conservatives generally give to charity far more than liberals. I wonder if that’s because conservatives place a higher emphasis on what you do with your own resources whereas liberals don’t feel the need to be as generous because they feel the state should take the place of charities?