The Constructive Dialogue Institute Has Solutions for Classrooms Impacted by National Polarization
NEW YORK, August 2, 2022 – OpenMind, a non-profit organization that addresses rising polarization and social division, announced today its official rebrand to the Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI). This rebrand reflects a new phase in the organization's mission of equipping the next generation of Americans with the mindset and skill set to engage in dialogue across differences.
American democracy is in crisis. Political polarization has been on the rise, and according to a 2022 NPR/Ipsos poll, 70% of Americans believe the country is at risk of failing. These divisions have had profound repercussions on America's educational systems. Rather than serving as a space to promote dialogue about the challenging issues of our time, schools and universities are moving in the opposite direction. In 2021, legislatures in at least 24 states introduced bills banning the teaching of “divisive” concepts, primarily relating to race, gender, and American history. On college campuses, 60% of students indicate they would be reluctant to discuss controversial topics on their campus.
It is the responsibility of our educational institutions to prepare the next generation for democratic citizenship. However, given the divisive climate in schools and campuses across the country, many educators are unsure of how to navigate this fraught environment.
Jonathan Haidt and Caroline Mehl co-founded the Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI) in 2017 to address these challenges. CDI promotes the science and practice of constructive dialogue: a form of conversation in which people who have different values, beliefs, and perspectives seek to build new ways to understand and interact with each other, even as they sustain commitments to their own principles and perspectives. The format is ideal for discussing important, complicated issues that can divide people.
"During this period of heightened division, teachers and professors need tools and resources to foster dialogue in their classrooms," noted Caroline Mehl, co-founder and Executive Director of the Constructive Dialogue Institute. "At CDI, we've distilled the latest social science research into easy-to-implement educational tools and strategies to support educators in creating learning environments where meaningful dialogue and true learning can take place."
To help facilitate constructive dialogue in the classroom, CDI offers an online learning program called Perspectives (formerly called OpenMind). Perspectives – which is free to educators – is an online program that teaches psychological concepts to foster openness to diverse perspectives and equip students with the skills to engage in dialogue about complex and sensitive topics. The program includes 30-minute interactive online lessons and conversation guides for students to practice applying their skills. Teachers and professors can easily implement the customizable program into their curriculum.
Since launching Perspectives in 2017, educators across dozens of academic disciplines and 400 academic institutions in 48 states have used the program with their students. Research from more than 35,000 students and two randomized controlled studies shows that the program improves students’ attitudes towards those who disagree with them, improves their ability to think with nuance and recognize the limits of their knowledge, and enhances their conflict resolution skills. Six months after completing the program, students continue to experience benefits from the program. 89% of students agreed they had benefited from using Perspectives and 86% of students noted that Perspectives helped them communicate across differences.
"Given the success we've seen with our research, we are encouraged by the impact these tools can have on reducing tension and improving dialogue in classrooms," explained Jonathan Haidt, co-founder of the Constructive Dialogue Institute. "The ability to work with, talk with, and learn from people who think or vote differently than you is now a superpower that all young people need to be successful at work and in life. Yet many in Gen Z do not have these skills. Our tools help students to cultivate them.”
Educators can learn more about bringing Perspectives to their classrooms by visiting www.constructivedialogue.org/solutions.
About the Constructive Dialogue Institute
Founded in 2017, the Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to equipping the next generation of Americans with the mindset and skill set to engage in dialogue across differences. CDI seeks to help teachers, faculty, and administrators build learning environments that enable students to feel comfortable engaging with challenging topics so that real learning can occur. To accomplish this goal, CDI translates the latest behavioral science research into educational resources and teaching strategies that are evidence-based, practical, and accessible.
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