A Compass During the Storm: Offering Students Critical Rigor for Polarizing Times

A Compass During the Storm: Offering Students Critical Rigor for Polarizing Times

By Andrew M. Wender and Valerie J. D’Erman, University of Victoria, Canada

Teaching and learning in higher education is occurring, unavoidably, within the broader civic context of today’s extraordinarily polarizing political times. We seek to help students situate themselves with respect to and, above all, thoughtfully assess others’ as well as their own perspectives on issues of profound contention, without contributing to exacerbated polarization ourselves. Specifically, we offer students in our first-year exploratory political science course a vital tool—critical rigor—for navigating but not being inundated by the storm. This article discusses our experiences in teaching the course titled, “The Worlds of Politics,” as we attempt to help students deeply engage in cognitive processes of critical thinking and analysis, without undue infringement from their own—and least of all our own—personal political biases. Our focal learning objective is the cultivation of critical-thinking skills that promote students’ drawing of distinctions between advocacy and analysis, as well as their discerning civic engagement.

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