Mariette de Haan, Utrecht University, Holland
The Limits and Potential of Dialogue to counter Polarization in Educative Settings
The November coffee hour will be devoted the time topic of polarization in society and its
manifestations in the context of formal classroom education. At a time when a member of our
Supreme Court has declared that he does not understand the meaning of diversity it is vital that
developmentalists and educators confront the polarization that is an existential threat to our
communities and our species itself. The chapter that Mariette has provided is based upon
intensive research in a pretty large scale study of the difficulties encountered by Dutch High
School Students and their teachers as they sought to implement polarization reduction activities
for their diverse student bodies.
“The chapter’s ambition is to provide the conditions and conceptual underpinning for using
dialogical models to design interventions in educational settings that are characterized by
polarized relationships, and opposing ethnic, religious and/or social class affiliations.”
To sign up, please email me at email@example.com . The text for discussion is HERE
To be notified of comments on this post and keep updated on the discussion, click the subscribe button below.
Beep from my iPad to see if I can send from here
As important as it is to be skilled at navigating differences, it is equally important to form bonds of friendship based on what we have in common (as human beings). After 9/11 the community college, where I was a professor for thirty years, painted these words prominently on a wall “The only thing we have in common is our differences.” How sad
and misguided, – when the only thing we actually have in common is the human condition.
We all get sick, care for loved ones who are sick or going through hard times, fall in (and out) of love, struggle with career choices and financial upsets, and suffer from the loss of loved ones. On a lighter side, good food, the beauty of nature, music, art, and dance are enjoyed by many – and the company of good friends who like you for yourself.
The terrorist attacks on 9/11 immediately placed my community at the very center of the
storm. For a couple nights there were anti-Muslim protest marches at the Bridgeview Mosque, Muslim charities such as the Holy Land Foundation that acted as fronts for
terrorist fundraising were raided and shut down. As in any ‘social catastrophe’ there were
bad actors on both sides.
The tensions on campus had been building for several years. The fierce arguments between Middle Eastern students in the cafeteria were of particular concern to some of us
who had children in the preschool just down the hall. [Where these arguments between
Sunni and Shia or Hamas and Fatah???] This and other alarming incidents led to my organizing the very first ever public event on Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s Congressional proposal to create a U.S. Department of Peace. A Dept. of Peace would function domestically the way the U.S. Instutute of Peace functions – to prevent, mitigate, and resolve international conflict. I began organizing the event in March 2021 and picked my mother’s birthday September18th to hold the event on campus. As it would happen, on September 11th people told me that we will have to cancel – of course you know me by now – I did not cancel the two day event. Instead we added a ceremony where we released seven white doves who flew out of their cages into the sky above the campus (seven continents even one for Antartica)
There were other profoundly unifying activities such as the Spirit Magazine for the Diverse Woman that Sammer Ghouleh founded The magazine featured stories of common interest for women such as raising children, relationship problems, health concerns, careers. A different ethnicity group was focused on in each issue.The yearly banquet brought together nearly 500 people to enjoy a variety of ethnic music and dance. Sammer and I are best friends to this day. Suffice it to say there were no more violent protests in the community – we did our part to build bridges based on commonalities that enabled us to care enough to understand our differences.
In September 2005 and 2006, I did presentations on Building Resilience in Communities to the psychology NGO’s meeting in NYC – they were there for the opening session of the United Nations. [And you thought I only translate Vygotsky]
Oh! By the way, our Illinois branch of the newly formed Alliance for a Department of Peace
asked to meet with our then Senator Barack Obama to ask him to sign on to Kucinich’s bill
as a co-sponsor. Obama declined saying he was already a sponsor for a couple other
bills being proposed in Congress.
Mariette’s description of the complete shut down of dialogue among polarized youth is very disturbing as it reflects the worst case scenario for any kind of problem solving. All the best of our human talents are closed off from helping bring resources to people in distress. Mariette’s discussion goes a long way toward helping build groundwork for creating the conditions for opening up dialogue. In the discussion of Imagination and creativity in the discussion 2 weeks ago, Beth Ferholt brought up resally interesting ideas about listening and the power of different kinds of listening in any leadership role in mediating conflicts whereever they are occurring in our communities (including classrooms). I’ve just got a newly published book called “The Theory of Being: Practices for transforming Self and Communities Across Differences” by Watt, Mahatmya, Mohebali and Martin-Stanley (2022,Stylus press) that I will be reading and drawing from going forward. Their theory of change leans heavily on difference. A fact that I cannot get away from is how different every single one of us is even if we share the same race, gender, culture and even age. To think that we are not navigating differences every single minute of the day is to be asleep, or worse, mentally dead. I keep thinking, this can’t be so hard to get dialogue going where differences emerge. Differences are everywhere. That’s all there is (thank goodness!) I am so glad we are working on this issue which is clearly stopping us all in our tracks these days. I hope Mariette has a chance to collect more data after we get to the bottom of knowing why she collected such powerful data on a complete stand off among youth – the last place we would hope to find such a dilemma.
Just watched the video where there was much of interest that relates back to our Seminar
on Imagination and Creativity in Vygotsky’s Works. Mike was referring to how the topics discussed in the most recent Coffee Hours have connections with our ongoing seminar.
It’s not just that some people are attending both the Coffee Hours and seminar – it is more
of a Zeitgeist. For those people who haven’t viewed the videos from our Seminar on I&C
you might find the presentation and discussion interesting. During the Coffee Hour with
Mariette the term ‘framing’ was used a few times – our next seminar is on Frame Theory
from Pretend Play to Social Movements Tuesday Dec 6th at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time.
Contact Francine Smolucha at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the ZOOM link.
And we never fail to make a Vygotsky connection.