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How to Combat Tribalism on Campus

The Chronicle of Higher Education|March 17, 2023

Too many college students, taking cues from the polarized culture around them, are buying into a dichotomy as false as the one in Lem’s tale. Driven by laudable intentions to be on the right side of social and political issues, they are casting certain debates in stark moral terms that pit “us” — those with what they deem as the correct opinion — against “them” — anyone who disagrees. In their zeal, these students rush to judgment, brook no disagreement, and default to moral condemnation in place of argument and persuasion.

This is problematic for two reasons. First, when debate devolves into us-versus-them thinking — what the Harvard psychologist Joshua Greene calls moral tribalism — productive communication ends, along with the learning and understanding that can follow. Second, it can discourage students who are unwilling to brave the intertribal fray from sharing their own opinions.


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