“The most important thing you learn in life is how little you really know for certain,” IHS president Dr. Emily Chamlee-Wright writes in a USA Today Hidden Common Ground op-ed. “Once you learn that — once you embrace, like Socrates, the fundamental fact of your own ignorance — the world becomes a more exciting place, chock-full of possibility. Every person you encounter has the potential to offer insight you do not possess: He has experience I don’t have. She might change my mind about something.”
Dr. Chamlee-Wright’s op-ed is part of USA Today’s Hidden Common Ground project, which aims to pull back on political polarization by fostering civil discourse and finding points of consensus.
USA Today launched the project in December after conducting a poll that found 90% of Americans say it’s important to reduce chasm between political parties.
In her op-ed, Dr. Chamlee-Wright argues that “to begin a new chapter in the American Experiment, we should make a new commitment to intellectual humility.”
“Let’s begin at our universities,” Dr. Chamlee-Wright writes.
Universities are the site of knowledge acquisition, of course. But it’s the sense of excitement for all that is uncertain that is perhaps the great gift academia can give students. As William Cronon observed, a liberally educated person is able to hold a conversation with anyone — whether ‘a high school dropout or Nobel laureate’ — because we have cultivated a genuine, far-ranging sense of curiosity that is grounded in the underlying belief that we have something to learn from virtually everyone.– Dr. Chamlee-Wright
This “underlying belief” is part of what motivates IHS’s Discourse Initiative, Dr. Chamlee-Wright explains:
At the Institute for Humane Studies we’re working with scholars around the country to launch the Discourse Initiative, where we’ll invite learning conversations on issues of politics, philosophy, history, economics and law. Like the architects of the Hidden Common Ground Project, we believe that America is not as hopelessly divided as it seems. We put forth that our hidden common ground is our shared heritage of Enlightenment-era principles upon which America was founded, among them, a belief in the inherent dignity of every person and the importance of individual freedom, tolerance and intellectual humility to the good society.– Dr. Chamlee-Wright