If the education system refuses to acknowledge conservative leaning and liberal leaning students as people who want to be educated and people who can acquire knowledge and critical thinking skills, you will get divisions instead of understanding. There are some bad ways of educating:

  1. Dismiss students who don’t think like you
  2. Indoctrinate students to think like you
  3. Punish students for not thinking like you
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Daryl Davis, an icon of perspective taking, who used conversations to convince dozens of people to leave the Ku Klux Klan

Unfortunately, this is exactly the approach that dominates university and grade school attempts to open people’s minds and change behavior. The way out of this mess is to bring young and old into the fold with an eye toward teaching critical thinking. This does not mean all ideas are equally valuable and will be treated as such. It means all ideas will be equally scrutinized and questioned from a place of rational thinking and evidence. It cannot be stated enough — teach people how to think not what to think. …

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Photograph by Artem Beliakin

For all my friends who survived the cluster fuck of 2020, I hope this is a better year.

For our family, we lost two of the great ones. Irreplaceable. Vortices never to be filled. Phone calls never to be returned. Cravings for contact that produce often unbearable unscratched itches.

Awareness of mortality induces a desire to make life changes with great intention.

Less busy work, more meaningful work.

Instead of production, accomplishment, or recognition, high potential impact is the compass for work-related decisions.

Resisting the pull of online activity with random characters whose opinion doesn’t really matter (and never did), whose presence or absence is irrelevant to quality of life. …

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Four weeks ago I talked to my father-in-law on the phone about overzealous sports parents in Northern Virginia. The dad on my 13-year-old daughter’s soccer team who feels compelled to whistle multiple times per game whenever his kid is not running fast enough for him. The dad who rings a metallic cowbell every time his kid’s team scores (oblivious to the goalie who buries her face in shame every time the sound blasts through the arena). We sifted through a website of awful parents in youth sports. Shock. Intrigue. Laughter. Indignation. We discussed the best and worst ways to intervene (are you breaking the “snitches get stitches” code by avoiding a confrontation and telling the coach?). Just a typical random conversation out of thousands over the past 17 years. That was four weeks ago. Days later, my father-in-law contracted COVID-19. …

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Brace yourself for an unpopular thought — if you ever sent a post, meme, or statement supporting women leaders, asked for more women leaders, or liked a post that someone else sent supporting women leadership, then why aren’t you celebrating Amy Coney Barrett as a potential Supreme Court nominee? Perhaps a caveat should be added — are you for demographic diversity if and only if they pass your ideological purity test?

I think this potential Supreme Court nominee offers a useful opening to a honest conversation about diversity. What do you mean by this term? What are the concrete goals you are targeting with initiatives? …

Be careful of bracket creep when throwing around the words racist sexist and evil. Eventually the words will mean nothing other than someone expressed an opinion you disagreed with. The consequence: you won’t be able to discern who does and doesn’t have bad intentions. More people will be blindsided when applying for jobs, loans, and homes.

There is a lost art to precision. Be clear with your terms. Don’t overreach. Search for perfection and everyone will be socially persecuted in due course, even you.

Captured by Everlast in their one hit wonder:

I’ve seen a rich man beg I’ve seen a good man…

With reluctance, a few thoughts on this long overdue movement to deliver on the promise of fairness and equality across racial (and other demographic) lines.

If you don’t create space for people to present their nuanced views you won’t hear about them. And you’ll think there is more support for an issue then in actuality. And on back porches, in small gatherings, on private phone calls, people will whisper what they really think…and you’ll never know.

Real lasting change that is more about action and less about the social media post of the day requires several rounds of 360 degree perspective taking. …

This blog post is co-authored by my long-term collaborator Dr. Patrick E. McKnight, Professor of Psychology at George Mason University

In the news today (March 26th, 2020), the headlines read Jobless claims this morning will be historic (Yahoo Finance), Preparing for millions of layoffs (New York Times), U.S. Jobless claims jump to 3.28 million, quadruple prior record (Bloomberg), and Wall Street shakes off unemployment report as aid nears (New York Times). These numbers are astounding and yet, many believe the effects of joblessness in the United States are trivial. Due, in part, to the fact that managing the coronavirus pandemic takes temporal precedence for most individuals. In isolation, shutting down the economy seems an unfathomable concept except when pitched as part of a quarantine solution to halt the spread of the pandemic. The government recognizes these concerns in their effort to provide a two trillion-dollar financial aid package. The aid offers a short-term salve that masks the immediate and potential long-term consequences of unemployment. …

I was thinking about how much time is spent discussing diversity for the health of groups and organizations, especially in academia. And then uncertain, real-world problems kick in and there is nary a mention. Is the self-professed importance of diversity different during times of war/crisis and peace. And if so, why? Below is a plea for cognitive diversity in groups that are trying to solve complex problems.

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A great deal of attention and resources in the current pandemic are rightfully being dedicated to physical health, especially those in the population who are the most vulnerable (the elderly, children and adults with immunological problems, etc.). …

There is a rule in my household. If anyone wants to read a book, for any reason, I will buy it. Society have this false belief that education ends after receiving a formal, professional degree. It is absurd. There is no endpoint for mastering the human psyche. You don’t get public recognition for understanding why you screamed at someone questioning your morals. You don’t get a cake for untangling a knot in a friendship, only to cherish and enjoy each other’s company again. Maybe you should.

Books, and talking about them, is one of the best ways to continually increase your intelligence and wisdom. If these lofty goals are uninteresting, just lose yourself in a state of flow for hours. Recharge your batteries. Appreciate exotic landscapes. Fall in love with characters and safely wrestle with their foreign perspectives. …

Pay close attention to the scientific research on the effects of screen time on children and teenagers and you realize each headline is the diametrical opposite of the last. My prediction is that the next 20 years will feature dueling scientific researchers on whether social media leads to psychological problems in youth. With many people sitting on the sidelines screaming, “It depends on how you use it!”

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Screen time is bad?


Todd Kashdan

Professor, psychologist, author, scientist; providing information on the science of happiness, meaning in life, and what makes life most worth living.

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