[Please Note: This Writing Assignment does not follow the guidelines we reviewed

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Jul 26, 2022

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[Please Note: This Writing Assignment does not follow the guidelines we reviewed for a typical Argumentative Essay. Follow the directions below closely.]
This is a general overview for your writing assignment. Please read it carefully, as there is a lot of important information contained below.
For this assignment, you will be asked to think critically about how political partisanship impacts critical thinking (I use political partisanship and party loyalty synonymously in this assignment). The U.S. is an incredibly divided country with regard to politics. Many people are extremely loyal to parties like Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, or Socialists. These loyalties can cause us to accept or reject ideas simply because they do or do not align with our chosen party’s values, regardless of the merits of the ideas themselves. This is true of partisans regardless of which party or idea they are loyal to. Liberals will reject ideas they see as conservative, conservatives will reject ideas they see as liberal, etc. I am a liberal Democrat politically, and I always have to fight the temptation to blindly follow my party’s stances or blindly reject conservative Republican ideas (and I HATE libertarianism, so I really have to battle with blindly rejecting their ideas, as well). Good critical thinkers, though, want to believe ideas because they are true, not because they are supported or rejected by a party they align with. I want that for myself, even these beliefs do not align with my current political views.
The goal of this assignment is NOT to alter your political views. I understand that I have students of all different political loyalties (and some who do not care at all about politics or political issues). I don’t care to change your politics (or lack of politics) in any way. The goal here is to think critically about how partisanship affects critical thinking, regardless of which side you are on.
[I describe the assignment as having three parts, but all three parts are due this week.]
In Part I of the assignment, you will be defining partisanship and revisiting our discussion of cognitive hindrances to critical thinking and identifying ways in which those hindrances arise for those who are partisan. As you will see, almost all of them apply in some way or the other. You will use the resources I provide for you to define partisanship and explain how it prevents people from forming true beliefs. Your Part I essay must be, at least, 1,200 words (do not write significantly more than this).
In Part II of the assignment, you will think about how one can combat partisan tendencies, specifically how partisanship can affect someone’s engagement with media and authorities, and how a good critical thinker will debias themselves and engage with media. Your Part II essay must be, at least, 1,200 words (do not write significantly more than this).
In Part III of the assignment, you will offer some practical and personal solutions for how you will deal with partisanship and forming true beliefs, especially focusing on how you (or others close to you) engage with media and authorities. Your Part III essay must be, at least, 600 words (do not write significantly more than this).
For Part I, you will begin by reading “The Influence of Partisan Motivated Reasoning on Public Opinion Download The Influence of Partisan Motivated Reasoning on Public Opinion” and “Political Parties, Motivated Reasoning, and Issue Framing Effects Download Political Parties, Motivated Reasoning, and Issue Framing Effects.” Take notes on these articles and make an outline of them, paying special attention to the definition of partisanship and motivated reasoning in these contexts. These articles are mostly for background. The substance of Part I of this assignment will come from the article, “Echo Chambers and Epistemic Bubbles Download Echo Chambers and Epistemic Bubbles.” Read this article, and take very careful notes on it to create a comprehensive outline (especially on the first 24 pages; the rest of the article is more relevant to Part II of your assignment). Part I of your essay will primarily define epistemic bubbles and echo chambers, weaving in ideas about partisanship and motivated reasoning. As you are reading these articles, keep all of the cognitive hindrances we studied in mind, looking for any connections you can find (pay special attention to the halo/pitchfork effect and confirmation bias). Do additional research on these hindrances from the sources I provide to get a deeper understanding of them.
Your essay absolutely must explain epistemic bubbles and echo chambers clearly and seamlessly combine insights from the articles on partisanship and information about cognitive hindrances. The sources I provide are your research resources and from them you will describe how partisanship affects one’s ability to form true beliefs. Your Part I essay must be, at least, 1,200 words (do not write significantly more than this).
In Part II of the assignment, you will be thinking about how the media sources someone selects and the authorities they choose to trust can harden partisanship and further negatively impact one’s ability to form true beliefs. In this section, you are beginning to discuss how one can overcome partisanship and form beliefs more objectively. The second half of “Echo Chambers and Epistemic Bubbles Download Echo Chambers and Epistemic Bubbles” will help inform your essay, along with the articles below. First, I want you to watch the video “The moral roots of liberal and conservatives (Links to an external site.)” and read (and take careful notes on) “Democracy’s Burden Download Democracy’s Burden” and “The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences across the Political Spectrum. Download The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences across the Political Spectrum.” These resources demonstrate thinking outside of the echo chamber and epistemic bubble [For what it is worth, I don’t actually agree with several of the conclusions made, but I still think they are good examples of non-bias thinking]. Next, watch the videos, “Media and the Mind (Links to an external site.),” “The Dark(er) Side of Media (Links to an external site.),” “Media Skills (Links to an external site.),” and “Future Literacies (Links to an external site.).” Take notes on these videos, as they provide background on one of the issues at the heart of this part of the assignment.
After reflecting on all of the sources above, carefully read and take detailed notes on “False Polarization: Debiasing as Applied Social Epistemology Download False Polarization: Debiasing as Applied Social Epistemology.” Note: this is a complex, sophisticated article. You will need to take your time reading it (and probably take lots of breaks). It is very important, though, to understand the arguments and outline the article thoroughly. When you’ve made your way through it, go back to the second half of “Echo Chambers and Epistemic Bubbles Download Echo Chambers and Epistemic Bubbles,” where the author discusses the solutions for overcoming bias. Lastly, read the (relatively simple) chapter, “Care and Feeding of Mediated Me Download Care and Feeding of Mediated Me.” Take careful notes on this chapter, as well. I expect your essay to cover the debiasing strategies from the “False Polarization” article, the escaping strategies of the “Echo Chambers and Epistemic Bubbles” article, and the strategies for evaluating media sources in the “Care and Feeding of Mediated Me” chapter. An excellent essay will incorporate ideas from the other resources I provide in this section, as well. Your Part II essay must be, at least, 1,200 words (do not write significantly more than this).
In Part III of the assignment, you will begin drawing conclusions from your research. I want you to either (a) discuss how you personally can use this information to avoid partisanship and form true beliefs or (b) describe what advice you would give someone you know who is partisan to form true beliefs. Your essay should make many references the other parts of this assignment that you wrote and to the resources I provided in those sections. You are describing and summarizing the best information you came across in your research and personalizing that information. This is NOT simply your opinion, however; it should be thoroughly rooted in the research you did in Parts I & II. Your Part III essay must be, at least, 600 words (do not write significantly more than this).

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