Variety - Left and Right

 “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” —John Stuart Mill

America is as divided as ever. Today, we find ourselves not only divided but largely ignorant of what is on the other side of the divide. We watch news programs based on our political preferences. Our news from social media is filtered by algorithms and becomes an echo chamber. We live in siloed communities and work in homogeneous workplaces. Alternative voices are shouted down or disinvited from college campuses. Students feel stifled and pressured to self-censor in the classrooms and among their peers. By design or by the accidental forces of modern society, many of us are ignorant of what informs the “other side” and what alternatives there may be to the talking heads on television or the party affiliations of our parents or teachers.

“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that,” said the great philosopher of liberalism John Stuart Mill. He went on to say that it was not enough to hear alternatives from teachers who also included the bias of refutations in their presentations. Rather, “[h]e must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.” This is the vision behind the McConnell Center’s new project “Variety—Left and Right.” In a series of lectures, seminars, book clubs, podcasts, and conversations, we will seek to come to understand the foundations of political thinking—both left and right—on their own terms. We will seek understanding—not conformity. We will align ourselves with free speech and free inquiry and consider our own positions and the good of our community in light of our newly broadened understandings.

  • Aug. 24: “The Way Out—How to Overcome Toxic Polarization,” Dr. Peter Coleman, Columbia School of Professional Studies, Chao Auditorium, Ekstrom Library, 6 PM
  • Sep. 17: “Political Polarization, the Classroom, and the Future of Civic Discourse,” Dr. John Rose, The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke UniversityMultipurpose Room, Student Activities Center, 12 PM
  • Oct. 11: “American Conservatism and the Challenges of Populism,” Dr. George Nash, Author of The Conservative Intellectual Tradition in America Since 1945, Chao Auditorium, Ekstrom Library, 6 PM 
  • Oct. 25: “The Right—The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism,” Matthew Continetti, American Enterprise Institute and author of The Right—The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism, Chao Auditorium, Ekstrom Library, 6 PM
  • Nov. 3: “Zombies, Ethics, and Liberalism—Do we Eat Brains or the Hearts First?” Chris Robichaud, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Chao Auditorium, Ekstrom Library, 6 PM
  • Nov. TBA: “The Economics of Equity: The Economic Case for Investing in the Underdog”