Heterodox Academy

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I am delighted to announce that I am now a member of the Heterodox Academy. The Heterodox Academy is a relatively new organisation whose aim is to increase viewpoint diversity within academia. This is an issue I feel very strongly about, as in recent years I’ve seen amongst both students and staff, a noticeable decline in (and tolerance towards) differing viewpoints within higher education. This is problematic for a number of reasons, not least because a university education is traditionally meant to introduce people to challenging and difficult ideas. Increasingly, it seemed to me, that an ‘industry’ that used to be known for tolerance towards different perspectives, was actually starting to dictate what we ‘were allowed’ to think.

The problem is that whenever group-think exists, not only can it become difficult to challenge the popular narrative, it can also be difficult to even conceive of alternative perspectives.  While clearly, this is problematic in itself, it is particularly damaging when it occurs in education. How can we develop and learn if we are not subject to different viewpoints and perspectives? We also learn through making mistakes, so if we are never challenged or questioned, how can we update our thinking? Similarly, how can we function in our every-day lives (outwith academia) if we are unable to cope with unfamiliar, or different, viewpoints? We should be able to logically and rationally challenge viewpoints we disagree with, and we can only do that if we willing to engage with them.

While previously, being exposed to new knowledge was one of the primary aims of higher education, increasingly students are demanding that ideas (and people) they disagree with be shut down, rather than challenged with thoughtful and reasoned argument. Unfortunately, they don’t have good role models in this regard, as some of their professors are guilty of the same. Indeed, we only need to look at our public ‘role models’ in the form of our politicians and leaders to see that ability to deal civilly and coherently with opposing viewpoints is uncommon. Regardless of this, we should expect more from ‘educated’ people, and should aspire to better than the ‘Trumpian’ style of ‘debate’.

Ultimately, I feel that education is not only about learning, it should all be about developing our capacity to think, while also becoming well-balanced and productive citizens with strong and resilient personalities. We need students (and citizens) who are able to calmly and thoughtfully deal with challenges, rather than running away from them – or acting with anger and aggression.  As should be clear now from what I’ve said, one of the ways to do this is to expose students to unfamiliar and disquieting ideas. Only then are they able to develop the tools to be able to deal with them healthily and productively.

In this post, I have focussed on the importance of viewpoint diversity for students in higher education, but it is also crucial for society as a whole. I will discuss this (probably at some length) at a later date, but the Heterodox Academy also have a very readable summary on their website. Please take some time to have a look at their resources, and consider giving them some support.

 

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Worth So Much More

I’m very proud to have been involved with No1 Magazine’s Body Campaign #worthsomuchmore.

This is something that I feel very passionate about (as readers of my blog will know!), and in this article, I have offered some advice to help readers work towards feeling better about themselves (mostly by focussing on things other than appearance!).

I think the No1 Team (and Ida who wrote the article) deserve a great deal of credit for approaching the ‘body image’ issue in a different way from how it is usually discussed in the media.

 

The Brilliant Club launch

Yesterday was the Scottish launch trip for The Brilliant Club. The aim of the charity is to increase access to university for children from under-represented backgrounds, and after a very successful pilot last year, the Brilliant Club is now extending into Scotland. We are going to be working with three schools in Glasgow and one in Dundee. The children are going to be sitting courses in physics and biochemistry as well as my own social psychology course.

I’m hoping my course will give the youngsters some insights into their own relationships, but also some of the events they are currently witnessing in the wider world.

 

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The Brilliant Club

I am delighted to have been employed by The Brilliant Club to help them with their expansion into Scotland. The Brilliant Club is a charity that aims to improve access to higher education for children from under-privileged backgrounds. Previously the charity has been working only in England and Wales, but as of January, we will be working with schools in Scotland too. As part of this, we are teaching courses in our areas of specialism to 3rd and 4th year pupils. I’m very excited to be involved in this project, and will report back regularly.

Below are a few pictures from my first training weekend in Manchester.

BBC Newsdrive interview

I was delighted to be invited to feature on BBC Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive programme to discuss the findings of my research on high school pupils’ health behaviours.

To listen to the audio, click here:

 

The original paper can be found here:

Miller, K., Wakefield, J. R. H., & Sani, F. (2016). Greater Number of Group Identifications is Associated with Healthier Behaviour in Adolescents. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 34 (2), 291-305. DOI: 10.1111/bjdp.12141.