Hop on over to our friends at Purple State of Mind to read this post there, and I’d recommend you do some general visiting while there…
Last night we met the bright, young and politically diverse high school seniors participating in The Village Square’s very first Teen Square. We invited a moderate speaker on our next Dinner at the Square topic: “Global Warming, Cap & Trade, Dollars & Sense.” Our speaker, Barry Moline of Florida Municipal Electric Association, walked us through sensible arguments on both sides of the global warming divide (and apparently they do exist). He charted a potential middle ground: We spend 2% of our energy consumption budget – a huge increase of investment – on development of alternative green technologies. Effectively we take a step toward the predominant thinking that mankind is artificially warming our planet, but we don’t bet the whole ranch on it just in case we’re wrong.
Barry left our students with thoughtful advice: Try disagreeing starting with the words “Consider this.” And he shared a quote written by Daniel Boorstin: “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance it is the illusion of knowledge.”
After our speaker finished and left, I asked the group of students a question: What would have happened to our discussion had I, as a conservative Democrat who believes in manmade climate change, invited a speaker who agrees with me and filled the room with students who see it my way? How would the discussion have gone?
Well those seniors are smart as whips and possibly brighter than the average 40-year-old; they knew right away that the discussion would have helped us all feel quite superior to the rest of the human race, but we would have been fantastically partly wrong. They even knew that like-minded groups create extreme thinking. (Dang we found some smart seniors.)
Now could we possibly find an eighteen-year-old to run things starting tomorrow?
Until then, those of us over –er – (cough, cough) we’ll say thirty, better turn our attention to the reality that – more and more – the fabric of American society is made of rooms full of people who see it the “our” way. Sometimes our “rooms” are political or social groups, sometimes they’re radio or televisions shows, and they can even be our churches, some of which are breaking apart into like-minded factions.
In this one room on this one night, it was obvious that our discussion – and any solutions potentially springing from it – would have been severely compromised had we all agreed. If only it were so stunningly obvious to the rest of everyone else outside of that room.
We brought a prop to the evening’s discussion: A bowl full of cherries. The cherries were meant to remind us that on any given topic, there is a whole “bowl” full of facts we need to understand if we want to make informed decisions. The fleets of political cherry pickers want us to believe there are only five, and they want to pick the five we’re going to pay attention to. That’s why you can flip back and forth from Fox to MSNBC and think it looks like they exist in alternative universes. (They do.) They’re grabbing onto different fistfuls of cherries and they’ll be darned if they’ll let them go…
Well not this one group of students, not on this one night. They saw the bowl.
And that is a place to start.