ABSTRACT

It would be reasonable to assume that factual understanding would provide a path to depolarization. In fact, though, this chapter contends that knowledge has its limitations when it comes to building bridges across lines of political disagreement. This is because people discard or discredit information that challenges their deeply held beliefs (known as identity-protective reasoning). It is unrealistic, then, to imagine that factual knowledge alone—or even the power of reason—will equip students to face the crisis of polarization. Civic education holds promise for many educators, although the chapter points out the peril of strictly pursuing a goal of civic engagement, because political engagement is often fueled most effectively by surrounding oneself with like-minded thinkers. In contrast, exposure to viewpoint diversity opens the door to meaningful deliberation, and this book seeks to elevate the deliberative element of democracy to the headline: for today’s students to successfully navigate—and possibly mend—our deeply polarized society, they must practice interacting with the political and ideological “other.”