image - soviet stamp "the girl student"
“The Girl Student” – not taking a MOOC
By Post of Soviet Union (scanner) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I have started taking an online course on the psychology of climate science denial, which I found out about at skepticalscience.com thanks to a report in Reason and Existenz. It’s a MOOC – a mass open online course – which I understand is probably familiar to others, but is brand new to me. Tremendously exciting! It’s a large course, approximately 150 students. The class is much more diverse, in age, disciplinary background, and national origin/location than the typical college class would be, at least in my experience. A very brief superficial survey of our ideological bent suggests that there’s a significant self-selection bias in the enrollment, too – most of the class seems to fall into one of four ideological quadrants, the “egalitarian-communitarian” one, with a smattering of others up and down the vertical axis that represents the polarity “hierarchical/meritocratic-to-egalitarian,” and shifted towards the communitarian side of the “individualist-to-communitarian” horizontal axis. While some have expressed surprise at this, I was more surprised to see as much ideological diversity as there is. From my perspective, it’s yet another piece of evidence that people with widely divergent ideological perspectives together doesn’t happen automatically. The ideological differences condition behavioral choices that lead predictably to social separation. How we might get such interaction to happen non-automatically, and at the same time non-confrontationally, is my mind-worm these days.