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Wiser Universities

In Chapter 13, we organized our suggestions for creating and leading wiser universities into four categories. Here we repeat the outline of that chapter. We don't repeat the text from each item; rather, we use this page to add in links to resources mentioned in the book, plus we add links to additional resources and studies we discovered after we finished the book.

Jon has been arguing since 2016 that an institution can have no more than one telos (purpose, end goal), and that American universities are suffering from confusion and incoherence as many have elevated social and political goals to an equal status with the traditional telos of truth. If truth is your university's telos, then freedom of inquiry and viewpoint diversity are essential for success. See his lecture at Duke University laying out this argument. To create a better truth-seeking university, we suggest that you...


1. Entwine Your Identity With Freedom of Inquiry


A. Endorse the Chicago Statement on Principles of Free Expression. Or, for liberal arts colleges, perhaps the excellent statement created by Colgate University is more appropriate. 

B. Read Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger

C. Establish a practice of not responding to public outrage. (See this essay by Jon)

D. Do not allow the “heckler’s veto," in which a group of students are granted the power to shut down talks they don't like by preventing other students from hearing or seeing the speaker. Such actions are direct violations of the telos of a university; they should be treated like plagiarism or data fabrication and punished quickly and reliably.


2. Pick the Best Mix of People for the Mission


A. Admit more students who are older and can show evidence of their ability to live independently. Give a strong preference to veterans.


B. Admit more students who have attended schools that teach the intellectual virtues, such as the Intellectual Virtues Academy, in Long Beach California.


C. Include viewpoint diversity in diversity policies.

3. Orient and Educate for Productive Disagreement


A. Explicitly reject the Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. Show all incoming students this wonderful 4 minute clip of Van Jones speaking at the University of Chicago. Then speak often about the fact that students are antifragile. Without a common understanding of that concept, policies that promote growth and independence will sometimes be criticized as uncaring or insufficiently sensitive toward sudents' needs.

B. Explicitly reject the Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.

C. Explicitly reject the Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people. Look closely at the policies and programs your university has chosen to promote diversity and inclusion. Ask if each one has been shown, empirically, to improve the ability of students to get along with each other. Diversity training programs often fail this test;  many well-intentioned programs backfire. See if you can draw on books and approaches that emphasize "common humanity identity politics" instead, e.g., Irshad Maji's book Don't Label Me.

4. Draw a Larger Circle Around the Community

A. Foster school spirit.

B. Protect physical safety.

C. Host civil, cross- partisan events for students.

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