Robert Rosenkranz presents A Summer Challenge- Radical Rethinking
Just how strong are our personal convictions, and are we willing to change them, or to at least give genuine, thoughtful consideration to the other side?
New York Times Columnist David Leonhardt sits down with our host John Donvan to discuss this and his recent column, where he challenges members of society to pick a divisive issue, grapple with it, and then consider changing their minds.
For starters, he notes, the current state of the presidential administration offers evidence of an increasingly polarized society, adding that, more and more, Americans seem to group themselves geographically alongside others who share most of the same fundamental beliefs. Furthermore, he contends, while political fights are healthy and often productive, at some point, society seems to have slipped into “unhealthy” territory, where people have become too divided upon party lines, too divided in terms of where they live and too unwilling to stay humble and open when it comes to admitting what they might be wrong about.
Take a closer look at the issue of abortion, for example. People who are pro-life are often admittedly strong in their beliefs, but they are also often hesitant to truly, thoughtfully consider the other perspective. The same can be said for those who are staunchly pro-choice. Is it because there is a certain amount of embarrassment to be had in admitting you were wrong about a serious issue? Leonhardt doesn’t think so. On the contrary, he gives considerable credit to people who exercise flexibility within their thinking, and notes that he may have an easier time doing so than the average person because of his background in journalism, where maintaining objectivity is the name of the game.
Leonhardt also explores just where strong convictions come from in the first place in his discussion of climate change. He references an instance where a large group of adults are asked if they believe climate change is a real, manmade phenomenon, and how most of the people in the room raise their hands. The same group is then questioned about whether they have ever read books on the topic of climate change, and most of those hands went down.
No matter which way one sides, his underlying message contends, it’s a very freeing thing to realize that one has the capacity to change his or her mind – and to do so not based on preconceived notions, but on facts.