Welcome to the Viewpoint Diversity Experience

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, Americans are discovering that they are more deeply divided than they had realized. Rising cross-partisan hatred is intensifying an “us versus them” attitude that motivates people to accept the worst possible version of the other side’s beliefs, and the most flattering version of their own. These visions are distorted and counterproductive, particularly in universities where the clash of ideas could be so conducive to learning and growth.

The Viewpoint Diversity Experience is a six-step journey designed to foster mutual understanding within educational settings in order to prepare students for democratic citizenship and success in the politically diverse workplaces they will soon inhabit. Each step consists of some brief introductory text followed by one or two essays and/or videos, labeled “our picks.” If you just do that much, you can get the whole “experience” in 2-3 hours. If you’d like to know more, we also provide many additional readings and essays on each step.

While the Viewpoint Diversity Experience is designed for college students, it may be useful in high schools as well as in companies, religious congregations, and other organizations that are experiencing internal conflicts over politics. The VDE is still under development — we released this beta version on May 2, 2017, to solicit feedback and criticism (which you can give us right after Step 6). We’ll be developing teaching materials over the next few months to help groups get the most out of it, but in the meantime, please check it out yourself; it’s self-guided.

Click on the steps below to get started on the journey!

Understand the value of viewpoint diversity. Begin by learning about the advantages of having your beliefs challenged, and of discovering that you may have been wrong about something.

Cultivate humility and open-mindedness. Read short quotations from wise thinkers—East and West—that will help you attain a mindset of humility and openness.

Look inside the mind. Learn a little bit of psychology to see the tricks the mind plays on us, making us all prone to be self-righteous, overconfident, and quick to demonize “the other side.”

Understand the moral matrix. Learn how each team or tribe builds a comprehensive worldview that can explain everything, while making it harder for its members to think for themselves.

Venture beyond your moral matrix. Step outside your own moral matrix by exploring the mindsets, perspectives, and principles of progressives, conservatives, and libertarians.

Prepare for political conversations. Practice some skills—such as cognitive reappraisal, acknowledgment, and perspective taking—that will help you to talk, work, and engage productively with people whose politics and values differ from yours.

If you have ideas for how to use the Viewpoint Diversity Experience in your school or company, or if you want to suggest additional resources, email Caroline Mehl at: caroline@heterodoxacademy.org.