What Not to Do Following the Assault at the United States Capitol
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:
- Dismiss students who don’t think like you
- Indoctrinate students to think like you
- Punish students for not thinking like you
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. With this training, people will be equipped to better deal with ethical quandaries and manage the pressure of conforming with their group or not.
Do not let the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 increase your disdain for conservative leaning students, friends, and family. Resist the temptation to paint every conservative leaning person in America as part of the riot. If you give up on educating a subset of the population, where do you think they go? Instead of disappearing, they are likely to find ways to reduce their feelings of threat and ostracism. They are likely to bind with other castaways, who are the only characters willing to offer a semblance of belonging and connection. Bonding over a shared nemesis is one of the pathways to increased ideological conviction and radicalization.
Be angry. Hold people accountable for their actions. At the same time, think about reconciliation, rapprochement, and deploy hard earned virtues such as compassion, perspective taking, forgiveness, and wisdom. Resist the beloved social media fueled impulse to “become a gigantic revenge factory.” Play the long game of listening, understanding, and working with people you disagree with (often vehemently) to create a healthy society. An improved society will not emerge from a change in national leadership, it will arrive from improved relationships between individuals and groups.
Dr. Todd B. Kashdan is a public speaker, psychologist, professor of psychology at George Mason University. His latest book is The upside of your dark side: Why being your whole self — not just your “good” self — drives success and fulfillment. For free access to The Well-Being Laboratory publications and resources, visit: toddkashdan.com