Friends magazine, Fall 2017

Page 5


//Q How can academia best foster an environment for free and vigorous exchange while maintaining a safe and positive atmosphere for students?

A \\

Artist’s Viewpoint

I used digital art to capture I teach at a public the idea of someone being policy school, so it is incredibly the “odd one out” and important that my students engage expressing themselves. with the full range of perspectives on Because they are different, controversial topics that they will face the question arises if it is after graduation. But it’s not easy: In a safe space for this person anymore. Is having unique many classes, the students don’t come in and uncommon beliefs with a great deal of diversity of political allowed in order to keep views. And, as my own research has a space completely safe shown, both liberals and conservatives for all? —Keelty Wyatt ’18 are really skilled at ignoring information that doesn’t fit their own worldview (what psychologists call “motivated reasoning”). I’ve found a couple of techniques that have worked well to help incorporate different views. First, I spend the first day of every semester asking students to come up with a set of discussion guidelines. These usually set some boundaries for what will not be allowed in discussions (no name-calling, no relying on stereotypes), but the guidelines also usually set goals such as being open to ideas and not shutting down uncomfortable or unpopular perspectives. I’ve found that students are really engaged in this process and want a vigorous dialogue, and that being part of this procedure of setting the rules gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility for how the class discussions will go. The second technique I use is to have students take on specific roles in class debates. Not only does this guarantee that an unpopular viewpoint is



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