Monday, May 3, 2010

My President, Our President...and Confirmation Bias

A few posts ago, I noted the dangers of confirmation bias. President Obama seems to understand the dangers of succumbing to this phenomenon on a mass scale. As he said when he won the election, he is the president for all the people, not just black, or hispanic, or gay, or union, no, for everyone. And he shows what that means here, in his graduation speech to Michigan University, where he extols the students to keep themselves connected to different ideas than their own, and to people who believe differently than they do. Here is a highlight from the whole speech:

...if you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York
Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while. If
you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the
Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be
changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for
effective citizenship. It is essential for our democracy.

And so, too, is the practice of engaging in different experiences
with different kinds of people. I look out at this class and I realize for four
years at Michigan you have been exposed to diverse thinkers and scholars,
professors and students. Don’t narrow that broad intellectual exposure just
because you’re leaving here. Instead, seek to expand it. If you grew up in a big
city, spend some time with somebody who grew up in a rural town. If you find
yourself only hanging around with people of your own race or ethnicity or
religion, include people in your circle who have different backgrounds and life
experiences. You’ll learn what it’s like to walk in somebody else’s shoes, and
in the process, you will help to make this democracy work.

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