Leaving the University to Save the University — Debra Mashek on Bringing Back Viewpoint Diversity [#5]

“None of us are all good or bad, and when we talk in ways that … suggest other people are all bad or that we’re all good, that just doesn’t seem honest.”

As a natural skeptic, I don’t hold many strong beliefs. But here’s something I do believe in strongly: When trying to solve complex problems, you can’t do it alone.

We all believe our own world view is the right one, but there’s no way a single person can know it all. The only way to learn and improve is to expose ourselves to multiple ideas and multiple ways of thinking—even if those ideas come from people we disagree with.

Unfortunately, there’s a trend going on in the university towards fewer ways of thinking and fewer perspectives. What’s more, it seems many students and professors are afraid to speak their minds.

Heterodox Academy wants to reverse that trend. The organization—which started off as just a blog—now includes over 1500 scholars including bestselling author Steven Pinker, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, and Nobel winner Vernon Smith.

My guest is Debra Mashek, who left a tenured position at Harvey Mudd College in early 2018 to become Executive Director of Heterodox Academy.

Some topics we talk about:

  • Why it’s problematic to have a monoculture of ideas in the academy
  • Possible reasons for the decline in viewpoint diversity
  • Why feeling wrongs feels exactly the same as feeling right
  • The problem with “Chosen One” thinking
  • How to teach your kids to be more balanced thinkers


How to Listen


Or, search for “The Polymath Project” in the podcast app of your choice.

Links & Resources

Debra Mashek’s page at Heterodox Academy

Books mentioned:

Other links & resources: