After the recent Senate vote on tax reform, I was reminded of a theory called Social Construction of Reality. I had learned about this theory in grad school when focusing on the study of organizational communication. Basically social construction of reality occurs when groups construct (through interaction with each other) world views based on shared assumptions of reality. That’s pretty scary stuff!
I realize that I’ve also had some socially constructed world views based on my associations and because of the communities in which I have lived. When we aren’t exposed to different perspectives and views, and when we don’t allow for healthy (but civil) debates, we are more likely to seek confirmation for our own biases (biases that are reinforced by like-minded individuals). As a result, we are more likely to arrive at quick conclusions that can have serious consequences.
Fortunately, teaching at a community college in a conservative community has challenged me to consider multiple perspectives. Yes, I am a progressive at heart; that is my truth, not the truth everyone embraces. Over the years, I’ve had many opportunities to listen to and to consider opposing viewpoints. When I’ve given these different perspectives a fair hearing, I’ve often found my own views have broadened.
In a year, I will be leaving a familiar community and some of the closer relationships I’ve developed. I will miss those connections. I’ll need to build new connections. When I do, I also need to seek connections that will continue to challenge my thinking. If I don’t do this, I will not continue to grow. Without growth, I will be isolating myself in ways that will be unhealthy. I plan to visit different groups and organizations to find out where a variety of viewpoints and perspectives are valued. I will likely take some classes, get involved with civic groups, and may even start a community debate group based on principles of civility. Any other suggestions?