Wisconsin and the Great Ideological Stalemate

Read a provocative anti-union blog post Monday about the Wisconsin state government/public employee tinderbox. And over 100+ of the first comments. I was struck by three things.

First, there’s almost no middle-ground. The vast majority of commenters are attacking the blogger and one other. Is this a uniquely polarizing issue or is the intense debate symbolic of an increasingly divided polity? I’m not sure.

Second, I’m intrigued by the sporadic pro-union commenters who irately announce they’re unsubscribing from the blog. They’re saying to the author I’m so dismayed with your position on this political issue I will no longer be associated with you or read you—nevermind the body of work that prompted them to subscribe in the first place. Some sins are unforgivable. Was there anything worth reflecting on in the anti-union diatribe? Unless you’re insecure in your beliefs, why be threatened by thinking that’s antithetical to your own? At times, all of us “unsubscribe” from the people around us by tuning them out? What does it accomplish besides increased polarization?

Third, far too many high school teachers and college professors teach discrete factual information that’s readily available on smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and desktop computers. Instead, they should use rich content as a means towards an end, the end being a greater appreciation of ambiguity. Given the widening chasm between right and left in this country, young people who learn to value contending viewpoints, think conceptually, and grow comfortable with subtlety, nuance, and ambiguity, will have a distinct competitive advantage in tomorrow’s knowledge economy whether union members or not.

2 thoughts on “Wisconsin and the Great Ideological Stalemate

  1. Maybe I’m wrong Ron, but how much harder the task is when someone locks into an unbending frame of mind before they have fully matured in all other ways other than their physiological make up.

    I’ve talked to young twenty-somethings who have been indoctrinated at an early age by parents or other adult mentors about how the world is that it scares me how quickly they fall in to these rigid mindsets. What’s your experience on this?

    • Young ideologues are exasperating, but doesn’t it work both ways across the political spectrum? One advantage of going away to college (for the minority able to afford it) is the opportunity to develop a more authentic, personal political and life philosophy. The best college environments challenge young people on the right and left to rethink their parents’ assumptions about the world. I read your most recent post about why people vote against their best interests. What intrigues me is how reticent the 90% of low and middle income people are to increase the taxes on the top 10%. Everyone in the top 10% should probably thank Rush Limbaugh daily. Their logic is flawed. Social scientists have made it clear that upward mobility is at an all time low in the U.S. now and is even lower than in Western Europe. Just in case they become ‘the wealthy’ they figure better to balance budgets by forcing concessions from union workers.

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