You recently quit your tenured academic position of 16 years to work on the Critical Thinker Academy full time. What lead you to make this decision?
It’s a serious question. There are few jobs with more security than a tenured academic position in a US university. Why would anyone think about leaving early and running the financial risk of going into business for yourself?
The short answer is that I had been planning a move like this for a long time. I quit my joy at Iowa State University in May 2015, but I had announced to my department back in 2011 that I would be leaving in a couple of years.
I have always had one foot in academia and one foot in the creative arts. My plan back in graduate school was to get into educational cartooning (I’ve been a life-long amateur cartoonist) and transition into that full time, after spending maybe ten years in academia. So even as a graduate student I had a desire to leave academia at some point.
Why? Because my early inspirations were people like Carl Sagan, an academic who made a big impact in the 1980s popularizing science using television and film.
What I really wanted to do with my science and philosophy degrees was something closer to “philosophy journalism” (by analogy with science journalism), using popular media to communicate what scientists and philosophers have been learning to a broader public audience.
Given these motivations, the real question is, why didn’t I leave sooner?
Procrastination and fear, of course!
Regardless, I’m grateful for the time I spent as an academic. I learned things in my position that I would never have learned otherwise, and now I have the opportunity to share that with you.
I recently updated the promotional video for the Academy, and it helps to fill out the question of why I'm doing what I'm doing: