“More diversity in some of our key social groupings–from Facebook friends to neighborhood associations to faculty clubs to political conventions–will likely contribute to smarter thinking and less polarization.” –David Blankenhorn, president, Institute of American Values
Increasing racial, cultural and religious diversity seems to be an important factor in the extreme political polarization that now clouds us. But diversity, better understood, could be our best hope of repairing our fractured politics and moderating society.
Think about these factual observations.
- Diverse groups make better decisions. Research shows the mathematical average of 50 predictions made by experts holding widely divergent views are more likely to be accurate than you own best analysis or the opinion of a famous person you admire.
- Diverse groups are smart. Research shows like-minded groups make us individually dumber. When people in a group have the same views and constantly reinforce one another the advantage of what James Suroweicki calls “the wisdom of crowds” disappears. Like-mindedness in a group produces an exaggeratedly negative view of adversaries. “An iron law of homogenous groups is that opinion over time gravitates to the extreme.”
Both of our chief political parties increasing are made up of like-minded people. It’s hard to find a liberal Republican or a conservative Democrat. Increasing, our news outlets tell us only what we already think. Blankenhorn, quoted above, notes, “in 1976, one in four Americans lived in a county in which a presidential candidate won by a landslide. Today, one in two do.” Many communities are increasingly politically like-minded. The main result of liberals befriending other liberals and conservatives doing the same is dumbed down thinking and increasing polarization.
A university faculty of liberals and conservatives is likely to be better at educating students than a faculty of liberals. Talking to your friends and foes will likely make you smarter than talking to just your friends. Alexis de Tocqueville, French observer of 1830s America, argued that the problems of American democracy can only be solved by the uses of democracy. America is great because of its immigrant diversity.
The “melting pot” at Horizonte, Salt Lake City School District’s alternative high school and adult education center, is as diverse as any gathering I’ve ever seen. In it the thousands of formerly unsuccessful high schoolers, immigrants and refugees, find safety, harmony, happiness, helpfulness, mutual respect, learning and opportunity for individual and group growth. Our nation’s Great Seal phrase of E pluribus unum, Latin for one from many, is being achieved at Horizonte.