Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Transcending Political Polarization

I’ve been paying for the “Plus” version of ChatGPT for several weeks, but haven’t really used it much. This evening, I experimented with some questions about how we might transcend our presently high levels of political polarization in the United States. ChatGPT 4’s answers are remarkably good. Here’s a transcript of our dialog. I’ve added bold formatting to the summary name of each bullet point.

Civil Dialog” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer *

My first question: “How can the United States transcend our current era of political polarization, when extremist, fringe voices get so much mainstream attention and people who play on fears and uncertainty, as well as blaming others like immigrants, seem to get so much conservative support?”

ChatGPT 4’s response:

Transcending political polarization in the United States is a complex issue that requires efforts from various stakeholders, including political leaders, media, and citizens. Here are some suggestions that can help alleviate polarization and promote a more collaborative political environment:

  1. Encourage civil discourse: Foster respectful conversations between people with different political views. Encourage open-mindedness and active listening, as well as a willingness to engage in meaningful discussions.
  2. Media responsibility: Encourage media outlets to provide balanced and unbiased news coverage, avoiding sensationalism and promoting fact-based journalism. Media should also prioritize in-depth analysis over attention-grabbing headlines.
  3. Education and critical thinking: Strengthen civic education in schools and encourage the development of critical thinking skills. This will empower individuals to evaluate information more effectively, understand the complexities of political issues, and make informed decisions.
  4. Empathy and understanding: Encourage empathy and understanding among individuals with different political beliefs. Focus on shared values and common goals, emphasizing that most people want a better future for their country.
  5. Political leadership: Encourage political leaders to work across party lines, prioritize compromise, and focus on long-term solutions instead of short-term political victories. Promote leaders who can act as unifying figures rather than those who exploit divisions.
  6. Campaign finance reform: Implement campaign finance reform to limit the influence of money in politics, which often contributes to the amplification of extreme voices and the polarization of political discourse.
  7. Address socioeconomic issues: Work to address underlying socioeconomic issues that contribute to political polarization, such as income inequality, lack of access to quality education, and healthcare disparities.
  8. Counter misinformation and disinformation: Develop strategies to counter misinformation and disinformation campaigns that fuel division and distrust.
  9. Encourage grassroots initiatives: Support grassroots initiatives that promote community-building and dialogue among people with diverse political perspectives.
  10. Electoral reform: Consider electoral reforms, such as ranked-choice voting or proportional representation, which can encourage collaboration among political parties and reduce the influence of extreme voices.

By working together to address these challenges, the United States can foster a more inclusive, tolerant, and collaborative political environment that moves beyond the current era of polarization.

(ChatGPT 4, personal communication, March 21, 2023)

I honestly love these answers. I especially like the connection ChatGPT 4 makes to campaign finance reform and electoral reform, which aren’t necessarily things that are “top of mind” when it comes to discussions about political polarization. I’m a big fan of Larry Lessig and his work around promoting government transparency, ending Congressional corruption, and addressing campaign finance issues, among others. So I hear some resonant, on-target echos of Professor Lessig’s TED Talk 9 years ago in these ChatGPT 4 answers.

My follow-up response and next question was: “Wow, that is a very comprehensive and specific list of suggestions and strategies. Thank you! To your point about “education and critical thinking,” it seems that “media literacy” needs to play a more prominent role in schools and classrooms today. What suggestions do you have for increasing the educational emphasis on media literacy across the United States?”

ChatGPT 4’s response:

Increasing the emphasis on media literacy across the United States is crucial for fostering informed citizens who can effectively navigate the modern information landscape. Here are some suggestions for promoting media literacy in education:

  1. Integrate media literacy into the curriculum: Develop comprehensive media literacy programs that are integrated into the core curriculum at various grade levels. This can include teaching students to evaluate the credibility of sources, identify biases and propaganda, and understand the role of media in shaping public opinion.
  2. Encourage interdisciplinary learning: Media literacy can be incorporated into various subject areas, such as English, social studies, and even science, to help students understand how media influences their understanding of these subjects.
  3. Teacher training and professional development: Provide teachers with training and resources to effectively teach media literacy. This can include workshops, seminars, and access to online resources that can help them stay up-to-date on best practices in media literacy education.
  4. Use real-world examples: Engage students with real-world examples of media messages, helping them to apply critical thinking skills to evaluate the reliability and accuracy of information. Encourage them to compare and contrast different sources and perspectives on current events.
  5. Collaborate with local media: Partner with local media organizations to create projects and learning opportunities for students. This can involve having guest speakers from the media industry or facilitating student visits to newsrooms or media production facilities.
  6. Promote digital citizenship: Teach students the principles of responsible digital citizenship, including ethical online behavior, protecting personal privacy, and understanding the consequences of sharing information on social media platforms.
  7. Support student journalism: Encourage and support student journalism programs in schools, giving students hands-on experience in creating and critically evaluating media content.
  8. Parental involvement: Provide resources and workshops for parents to help them understand the importance of media literacy and equip them with tools to support their children’s learning at home.
  9. Evaluate and adapt: Regularly assess the effectiveness of media literacy programs and update them as necessary to address emerging issues and trends in the media landscape.
  10. Advocate for policy changes: Work with policymakers and education stakeholders to emphasize the importance of media literacy education and advocate for policy changes that prioritize and support its integration into the curriculum.

By implementing these suggestions, educators and policymakers can work together to ensure that students across the United States develop strong media literacy skills, enabling them to become more informed and engaged citizens.

(ChatGPT 4, personal communication, March 21, 2023)

These suggestions also strike me as spot-on, practical, and appropriately wide-ranging. As I consider my personal advocacy agenda for media literacy, these are excellent reminders and prompts. I love the proposal to increase teacher professional development around media literacy, supporting student journalism (like Storychasers!) and promoting digital citizenship. Wow. I’m not sure I could have created as balanced and comprehensive a list of ten suggestions as ChatGPT 4 did tonight. I certainly could not have written them as quickly.

Here was my third and final response and follow up question tonight: “Those are great suggestions! Can you suggest several different nonprofit, advocacy organizations in the United States which are promoting both the strategies you suggested first to reduce political polarization, as well as the media literacy recommendations you listed?”

Here was ChatGPT 4’s response, also including organizational websites:

Certainly! There are several nonprofit and advocacy organizations in the United States that focus on promoting strategies to reduce political polarization and enhance media literacy. Here are a few organizations working in these areas:

  1. National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD): NICD is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fostering civil discourse, reducing political polarization, and promoting collaborative problem-solving. They offer various programs and initiatives to encourage respectful and constructive conversations among people with diverse political views.


  1. Common Cause: Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization that focuses on issues such as campaign finance reform, voting rights, and redistricting reform. These initiatives aim to create a more inclusive and responsive political system that can help reduce polarization.


  1. Braver Angels: Braver Angels is a bipartisan organization that seeks to bridge the political divide by fostering respectful conversations and understanding between individuals with differing political views. They offer workshops, debates, and other programs designed to promote civil discourse.


  1. Media Literacy Now (MLN): MLN is a national advocacy organization focused on promoting media literacy education in K-12 schools. They work with lawmakers, educators, and other stakeholders to support policy changes that prioritize media literacy in the curriculum.


  1. The News Literacy Project (NLP): NLP is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to educating students and the public about news literacy, helping them to become more informed consumers of news and information. They offer various resources and programs, including the Checkology virtual classroom, which teaches students how to critically evaluate news content.


  1. Center for Media Literacy (CML): CML is a nonprofit organization that promotes media literacy education as a means to foster critical thinking and active participation in a democratic society. They provide resources, training, and support for educators and advocates working to advance media literacy.


  1. FairVote: FairVote is a nonpartisan organization that advocates for electoral reforms, such as ranked-choice voting and proportional representation, which can contribute to reducing political polarization and promoting a more collaborative political environment.


These organizations are actively working to address the issues of political polarization and media literacy in the United States, and supporting their efforts can contribute to the creation of a more inclusive and informed society.

(ChatGPT 4, personal communication, March 21, 2023)

Again, I have to start my response with, “WOW!” I had heard of some of these organizations but not all of them. Joining together with other people who share our values and advocacy agenda on specific issues is a vital and effective way to amplify our voices and support policy changes in our communities, states and nation. I’m going to be checking out several of these organizations, finding out if they are active in our Charlotte, North Carolina, area, and also considering financially supporting one or more of them. Working to reduce political polarization and advocate for a greater focus on media literacy in our schools are topics worth investing both time and money in.

* It seemed appropriate to use a generative AI tool to create the accompanying image with this blog post, so I initially chose DALLE from OpenAI, but I wasn’t happy with the results (the people looked weird) so I tried MidJourney. This was my image prompt:

/imagine prompt:a room full of women and men, engaging in respectful civil dialog. The group is very culturally and ethnically diverse, and there is not a single person who is dominating the meeting or the conversations. Patriotic United States flags are present, but other symbols of peace and human rights (including the flag of the United Nations) are also visible. Generally everyone seems happy and engaged in dialog, either listening or sharing ideas respectfully.

(MidJourney AI personal communication, March 21, 2023)

Yet again, generative AI tools exceed my own expectations. We’re living in an era of augmented capabilities, when tools like AI language models as well as image generators can offer us “superpowers” to do things we otherwise would not be able to independently accomplish at a comparable speed.

For more of my thoughts, advocacy and work about reducing political polarization and supporting media literacy in schools, check out these resources:

  1. My Media Literacy resource website
  2. My “Conspiracies and Culture Wars” media literacy inquiry project
  3. My middle school media literacy unit on, “Froot Loop Conspiracy Theories.”
  4. My March 6, 2023 webinar for TIP Teachers, titled “How to Teach About Conspiracy Theories Without Getting Fired”
Transcending Political Polarizationhumbn” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

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