Hi blog readers! My name is Anicca Cox and I teach in the First Year English program here at UMD. As you know, we will be incorporating The Righteous Mind into your first year composition courses to get you thinking about what it means to reason critically, rationally and morally and to help you to perhaps uncover some of your own biases, which you carry into new situations. You’ll also be posting 2 responses to the blog posts here throughout the rest of the summer in order to interact with both faculty and your peers. Finally, you’ll all be composing a short essay that responds to some of the ideas from the book which your first year writing instructor will be using in the classroom. So, let’s dive in!
One of the first things you’ll be practicing in your first year writing courses is the ability to pull out important information and key terms, concepts, ideas and questions from a reading. Some of you probably have experience with this already from high school. For example, this book might help us ask some important questions like: what does it mean to be in a group setting like a university knowing that we are, as Haidt argues, “10 percent bee?” Or more generally, what do you see as being the most important concept from your reading?
But I’m going to ask you to go one step further here. Let’s not just look at those key ideas as they stand alone. Let’s first explore the ideas and then let’s see what kinds of relationships we can discover between ideas. Let’s first take a key idea and put it in context. Yes, we are what Haidt calls “groupish” at times. Any soccer fans out there? In following the World Cup this year I was once again amazed at how much stock we can put in a team, how our very individual identities can form in relationship to a team mentality. So my first question is, if you watched the World Cup this year, did any of the ideas from Haidt’s book make you think in new ways about what it means to be on a team, or to be a fan? How did you feel when your favorite team won or lost? If you didn’t watch the soccer games, do you have experiences as a team member or a fan that match or diverge from what Haidt says about how we form identities and a sense of belonging through being on a team? Have you accessed your own “hive switch”? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages to this experience? Now let’s finish our task here by looking for relationships between ideas. Can you, as a reader take the idea of “groupish behavior” i.e. how we function on teams and see how this idea has a relationship to one or more of Haidt’s other key concepts?
For example, how does the idea of the hive switch or our “groupish” mentality interact with Haidt’s concepts about our six “moral taste receptors” or even what he says in chapter five about our “WEIRD morality”? In what ways does he as an academic writer, make those connections clear for us as readers? Discovering some of these relationships and connections will help us understand his theory on a deeper level and be able to see the complexity of those ideas.
Finally, as some of you are surely discovering, this book is a challenge. It’s true that Haidt takes a good long while laying out his full argument, backing it up with research, anecdotes and discussion. As a reader, I found some of the most important conclusions in the book by the third and final section so keep reading!
I’m excited to see what you fellow readers think about the book! I’ll be checking in every few days (as will all of our faculty and student guest bloggers) to answer questions and ask you to refine and explore your ideas. For now, let’s talk about those key concepts and the relationships between the important ideas in the book.
Happy blogging to you class of 2018!