Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Dialectical Thinking - Modern Literacy

A Bit About Me!

First I want to relate why the concept of dialectical thinking is personally relevant to me. As both a Mormon and a Feminist, I tend to get into a lot of deep discussions on a wide variety of issues. The people I am discussing with usually have some very incorrect notions about what I believe, which manifest quickly. Now I don't see this as a problem, but an opportunity for us to get to understand each other better! However, all too often I find that as I try to respectfully explore and clear up misconceptions that we both might have, my peer is rarely interested in hearing it; rather, they stick to their beliefs like a sailor to the last remnants of a sinking ship, and seem interested only in proving themselves correct.

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Sound familiar at all to you? My guess is that it does...

Dialectical Thinking And Government

Now, you and I being unable to share our thoughts and ideas with others because they don't want to hear it is one thing, but what would the world be like if we all decided to believe a certain ideology and then were never open to alternative viewpoints? Probably much like what congress looks like these days! 90% of Americans agree that the senate does not get enough done. This is because the constitution was designed to encourage compromise between various ideas and groups, so when our legislators are unwilling to think/act dialectically, the lack of compromise and cooperation across this abstract "aisle" means that nothing gets accomplished.

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This is why we need to be capable of thinking dialectically!

And "Dialectical" Means...?

"Dialectical thinking" means to be able and willing to understand and recognize the truth behind opposing viewpoints. Not only that, but it means that you are willing to find a solution that meets the needs of both opposing views. When people think dialectically, not only is a healthy dialogue is able to occur where each side is examined and understood objectively, but it also leads to results!

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The consequences of not thinking dialectically are worse than simply not accomplishing things, however...

Why It Matters

The psychological term for the way someone processes information when they are not able/willing to think dialectically is confirmation bias. This refers to mankind's natural tendency to filter out information they are exposed to through a process that weeds out/ignores facts, evidence or ideas that may be at odds with their own, and to emphasize information that supports their own viewpoints. If we do not aware of and put effort into avoiding these tendencies, we are no longer capable of seeing the objective world around us, instead living in self-supporting fantasies. When this is how we process the world, instead of arguing opposing views in order to reach a workable well-rounded compromise, arguing opposing views becomes an exercise in futility and an act of aggression.

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This pushes people apart and creates a feeling of otherness, leading us to dehumanize the "others," and these are the first steps to any meaningless conflict in history!

Explosion of Communication

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We are entering an age of unparalleled facilitation of communication, and like any technological revolution, it brings with it a higher level of opportunity for amazing advances, as well as much more painful consequences for failure. Being able to learn almost any detail about any part of the world as we know it with a few clicks of a mouse means that I can be exposed to such a wide variety of ideas, and then use all of those in figuring out what the best solution for any problem might be. Or, just as easily, I can learn about these other ways of thinking just enough to decide that I disagree with them and strengthen my own convictions that my worldview is absolutely right, and maybe even that I should do whatever I can to get others to conform.

Importance Of Literacy

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If we are not capable of interpreting and understanding information and ideas objectively, then we will feel constantly threatened by alternative ideas. Instead of advancing and progressing, we will remain stuck exactly where we are. Instead, let's emulate the examples of our founding fathers; when they worked on the constitution together they debated endlessly and passionately on topics which they held of the utmost importance. Yet, in the end, they recognized that their peer's concerns were valid, and thus they penned one document which was adequate enough at compromising between all parties that it was signed into law and has served as the backbone of this country ever since.

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This kind of attitude and behavior is difficult and takes a lot of attention and effort, but I believe that the progress we are capable of making in becoming a better society will be worth it!


  1. I completely agree that our Senate seems to be stagnate. There should always be open-minded and ready to improve sort of congressmen that don't always seem to be elected. I like your argument and I think it has a lot of potential to become very convincing. Just try to connect and transition your ideas a little smoother.

    1. Thank you SO much for the feedback, and I agree that the transition is pretty rough! I was working from early until 10pm last night, so I didn't have much time after the 5 topics had been posted to create this; my main focus was to attempt to weave in the overall concept of "21st Century Literacy." Did you feel like that was accomplished pretty well, or are there some clear things I could do to improve that?