Despite what may sometimes seem to be harsh criticism of the work of Jonathan Haidt and his team on this blog and in a few other places sprinkled around the ‘net, The Independent Whig remains a steadfast and unabashed supporter. If the reader takes away only one message from the Whig it should be this:
We can reduce demonization and shrink the political divide by teaching the lessons of The Righteous Mind in age appropriate modules in practically every subject – from literature to history to civics to health to economics – in our public schools from K through 12 and beyond. The Whig is confident that if our children understand how Moral Foundations influence the way people think in all walks of life and how they affect the way people relate with one another in the social world then future generations will have a deeper grasp of human nature and will thus be better equipped to get along; leaders who emerge will make better decisions through an increased empathy for how our righteous minds really work.
In the introduction of The Righteous Mind Dr. Haidt says:
People who devote their lives to studying something often come to believe that the object of their fascination is the key to understanding everything. Books have been published in recent years on the transformative role in human history played by cooking, mothering, war . . . even salt. This is one of those books.
I believe Dr. Haidt is more right than even he realizes. I believe the righteous mind (the phenomenon, rather than the book) is an integral part of the history of mankind, and certainly of politics. For example, I believe that the liberal and conservative righteous minds provided the intellectual underpinnings of the French and American Revolutions, respectively, and more recently of the Occupy and Tea Party movements in America. The two outlooks are also reflected, I suggest, in the economic visions of Keynes and Hayek. Moral foundations are evident in the stories and fables we tell our preschoolers, and in the literature our teenagers read in high school English. Practically every subject in our public education system could include a module which explicitly identifies and reinforces the ideas of The Righteous Mind and shows how those ideas abrought to bear on that subject; Even, or possibly especially, “Health” classes, where our kids might be taught how moral foundations can sometimes make it difficult to see eye to eye, and how understanding where others are “coming from” can help them to get past that problem.
We cannot possibly expect future generations to get along unless and until we “change the path” in a way that gives them a truer grasp of why getting along can be so hard to do.