Open-Mindedness on Campus: Justice, Inquiry, and Political Polarization in Twenty-First Century Higher Education
Rebecca M. Taylor

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Research Development Award

Award Year



Suffolk University

Primary Discipline

Colleges and universities are currently engaged in public negotiation of the value of open-mindedness for knowledge-seeking on campus in today's politically polarized context. The principles of academic freedom and free speech have long grounded a set of norms in higher education that encourage open-mindedness, yet campus activists in recent years have challenged that these norms undermine justice. This clash of perspectives regarding open-mindedness is particularly apparent in two contexts: 1) debates surrounding controversial speakers on college campuses, and 2) debates about new state legislation seeking to regulate free speech and/or advance politicized conceptions of intellectual diversity on campus. This project uses two lines of inquiry to examine these contexts and consider the value of open-mindedness on college campuses today. First, I apply conceptual tools drawn from epistemology to a content analysis of cases of public debates in the two contexts above. This analysis brings philosophical insights to bear on understanding the contrasting epistemological foundations and perspectives on open-mindedness that emerge in these debates. Second, I use normative, philosophical analysis to argue that these debates call on institutions of higher education to reconsider the relationship between open-mindedness, inquiry, and justice and the implications for their policies and practices.
About Rebecca M. Taylor
Rebecca M. Taylor is currently an Assistant Professor of Education at Suffolk University and will join the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in July 2020 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership. After earning a Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University in 2014, Dr. Taylor worked as a Research Associate in the Stanford Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law School and then as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Director of the Ethically Engaged Leaders Program at Emory University's Center for Ethics. As a philosopher and educational researcher, she uses philosophical inquiry and philosophically-grounded mixed methods to investigate questions of ethics and justice in educational policy and practice. Her research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation and the Center for Ethics and Education at University of Wisconsin and has appeared in journals including Harvard Educational Review, Educational Theory, Journal of Philosophy of Education, Democracy and Education, and Educational Philosophy and Theory.

Pin It on Pinterest