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60% College Students Feel Reluctant to Discuss Controversial Topics on Campus: Survey


As many as 60 per cent of college students feel reluctant to discuss controversial topics on their school’s campus. Avoiding difficult subjects doesn’t ease tensions or polarization, revealed a survey by the Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI). Instead, facing these topics head on in a productive way can help us to understand each other, reducing polarization, it added.

College students who take up short online learning programme reduces polarisation, improves their ability to think with nuance, and enhances their conflict resolution skills, the study added. The study also claimed that 73 per cent of students showed a decrease in polarization while 51 per cent of students were better able to recognize the limits of their knowledge. A total of 59 per cent of students showed less negative attacking behaviors during conflict, and 55 per cent of students showed a decrease in negative evading behaviors during conflict.

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The new research study was done on turning down the heat on campus: how an online educational program can reduce polarization and improve dialogue in college classrooms, demonstrating the effectiveness of its online learning program in reducing polarization.

“In recent years, political polarization has been on the rise, and hostility, outrage, and political dysfunction have become the norm, putting American democracy at risk. This divisiveness has swept across college campuses, making it increasingly difficult for students to learn about and discuss the most pressing issues of our time,” said the institute.

“At a time when polarization is at an all-time high and Americans are losing faith in our democracy, these results are extremely encouraging,” said Caroline Mehl, co-founder and executive director of the Constructive Dialogue Institute. “We believe perspectives can have a profound impact on improving discourse in classrooms across the country and preparing the next generation for democratic citizenship.”

The Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI), co-founded by psychologist Jonathan Haidt and Caroline Mehl, had developed an online educational programme called Perspectives to equip students with practical skills for navigating conversations across differences.

In the study, it found that 755 college students from across colleges and universities across the US were randomly assigned to a “treatment” condition (where they were assigned the perspectives lessons) or to a “control” condition (where they were not assigned the lessons).

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