Personal Views, Partisan Divides
Hi blog readers! My name is Anicca Cox and I teach in the First Year English program here at UMD. As you know, we will be incorporating The Righteous Mind into your first year composition courses to get you thinking about what it means to reason critically, rationally and morally and to help you to perhaps uncover some of your own biases, which you carry into new situations. So far, Professor Whittingham and Professor Stubblefield have addressed some really interesting ideas. For example, what does it mean to be in a group setting like a university knowing that we are, as Haidt argues, “10 percent bee?” Or, what does it mean to approach a pretty serious, academic book like this with enthusiasm and an open mind?
Many of you are already hitting on some of Haidt’s key points in your responses and exploring what it means to essentially “think well,” talking about how you work to be clear about your own opinions in the face of interactions with others. And, as some of you have pointed out, this book is a challenge. It’s true that Haidt takes a good long while laying out his full argument, backing it up with research, anecdotes and discussion. As a reader, I found some of the most important conclusions in the book by the third and final section.
One in particular that made me really think was chapter ten, “Can’t we All Disagree More Constructively.” In this chapter he breaks down our very genetic predispositions to seeing the world in a particular way: liberal vs. conservative. He makes assertions using research but he also questions his own premise—a powerful tool in exploring a complex topic. When he says on page 324, “How can there be a genetic basis for attitudes about nuclear power, progressive taxation and foreign aid when these are issues only emerged in the last century or two?” He is asking us to think in a larger context and look past the particulars of our political leanings. He is also asking us to consider that our political divides might be much deeper than just opinion. This got me thinking, because we hear a lot of talk these days about the partisan nature of politics. In our country, liberals and conservatives are battling it out in all sorts of venues from the floor of the senate to social media outlets and news organizations. And then it got me thinking about you, our incoming class. You are now of voting age. Where do you stand on the issues? Do you even agree that the country is divided politically and socially? Do you think we can solve some of the problems that might be causing division, or is it even worth our time?
Check out this New York Times video segment that shows a study of young voters and where they fall on the partisan politics scale. In the context of Haidt’s assertions about our predisposition to being divided, what do you think the significance of a study like this is? If this study is true, what implications might it have for the future of our country? As a part of the millennial generation, do you think we could apply some of Haidt’s principles to get young voters to “Disagree More Constructively?” If so, what might that look like?