Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Do Partisans Make Poor Citizens?

My Messiah College colleague Robin Lauermann has an op-ed in today's Philadelphia Inquirer reflecting on the problems with political partisanship.  I think it is an important read this Election Day morning.  Here is a taste:

The problems our society faces are complex, and they require nuanced solutions. For example, policies that assume poverty is solely the result of circumstances beyond a person's control - or, conversely, solely the fault of the poor - will miss the root causes. Like a physician who misdiagnoses an illness and prescribes the wrong treatment, voters and officials who are blinded by ideology will not effectively address our social and economic infirmities.

The skills of appropriate citizenship can help us deal with this. One constructive skill is critical thinking, which resists our strong natural tendency to reject whatever doesn't suit our current sensibilities. Critical thinking, as defined by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, is "a habit of mind characterized by the comprehensive exploration of issues, ideas, artifacts, and events before accepting or formulating an opinion or conclusion."

Voters who practice such thinking can listen to multiple perspectives, identify valid evidence, and make considered decisions that produce better results. That's a far cry from the conflict that arises from emotional partisanship and selective perception.

Nice job, Robin!