IN THE COURSE Ethical Issues for Managers, Don Lange wants to do
more than teach students the nuances of ethical leadership. He wants
to help them better understand and engage with people whose views
differ radically from their own. Lange, an associate professor of
management and entrepreneurship at Arizona State University's W.P.
Carey School of Business in Tempe, emphasizes the importance
of civil discourse before his class even begins. Before students come
to the first session, he asks them to complete five online modules in
OpenMind, a third-party app that its creators designed "to depolarize
communities and foster mutual understanding across differences."
Lange started using OpenMind in fall 2017, after he heard a presentation
by New York University professor Jonathan Haidt. Haidt is a
researcher focused on the deep divisions that can form in society and a
co-creator of OpenMind. The app models ways for students to engage
respectfully without retreating to their ideological camps.
It takes students less than two hours to complete the modules. The
first explores the question, "Why talk to people you disagree with?"
The next four lay out steps for civil debate, such as "cultivating intellectual
humility," "exploring the irrational mind," "breaking free from
your moral matrix," and "preparing for constructive disagreement."
In the first class, Lange asks students
to put the skills they've learned to use.
They break into pairs and identify an
issue on which both students strongly
disagree. Then, they engage in one-on-one
conversations in which they first
work to understand the values that drive
the other person's viewpoint, before reframing
their own views using the other
person's preferred moral foundations.
"The module not only teaches the importance
of listening to and learning from
others who see things differently, but also
gives students concrete instruction in
how to break down communication barriers
with others," says Lange. "The key is
to recognize the deeper agreements that
often underlie disagreements."
For example, Lange recalls two
students who disagreed on whether
players in the National Football League
should be required to stand for America's
national anthem. They determined that
authority and sanctity were key moral
foundations for the student who believed
that players should stand; care and
fairness were the moral foundations for
the student who believed players had the
right to kneel to protest racial inequality.
The students then restated their own
views using the other's moral foundations.
The individual who believed
players should stand said, "I think NFL
players should stand for the national
anthem because kneeling is hurtful to
[military veterans] who have sacrificed
so much." The student who believed
they should be able to kneel said, "I
think NFL players should be allowed to
kneel because freedom of expression is a
sacred right in our society."
It's rare that either student changes
the other's mind, says Lange, "But when
they hear the opposing view reframed
according to their own strongly held
values, it helps each to appreciate and
understand the other's view more."
Learn more about the OpenMind app.