Understanding opposing perspectives

Author Sharon Schuman discusses her new book and offers a solution to divisiveness

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“I think it’s time to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, and instead of saying ‘I’m a victim of the polarization of this world,’ how about looking inward and saying ‘how could I be looking at things from a deeper perspective that makes me more free?’” Sharon Schuman, author of “Freedom and Dialogue in a Polarized World,” said to around 70 students on Lane’s main campus on Tuesday, Feb. 21, during a lecture discussing her recently published book.

Schuman says that America’s debate centered politics are flawed and promote this idea of polarization or divisiveness. She insists that empathy and looking at things through other people’s perspectives is one way we can combat polarization.

Schuman is a scholar and author who has taught English at Willamette University, Oregon State University and most recently The University of Oregon.

Her newest book, published in Dec. 2013, argues that America’s current concepts of freedom are outdated and may have failed us. Schumer uses historical literature, such as Dante’s Inferno and The Iliad and theories on language and communication to argue that our current way of discussing things is only furthering the divide of this nation. Throughout the lecture Schumer continually stressed the importance of education.

“The best defense to polarization is learning. It’s critical thinking. It’s being exposed to people from a variety of backgrounds and really taking responsibility for your own thoughts so you can’t be manipulated and can see through a bogus argument,” Schuman said.

First year Lane student Samantha Morgan attended the lecture and thought that Schuman did a good job of tackling the important issues that seem to exemplify the polarization in this country.

“I appreciate that she’s willing to talk about the right topics, like abortion, because it’s such a huge, emotional issue, and the fact that she able to talk about that it was really cool,” Morgan said.

Second year Lane student Allie Rain agreed that empathy can help dialogue, but disagrees on whether or not polarization is an altogether bad thing 100 percent of the time.

“I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the implicit premise that polarization is always bad or harmful. I’m concerned that approaching polarization as categorically bad could lead down a dangerous path that blurs lines of morality for the sake of compromise and understanding,” Rain said.

After the lecture Schuman drew raffle tickets out of a hat and gave away seven hardback copies of her book. She also gave a book to a group of public safety officers who stood in the back of the room during the presentation.

“I don’t know exactly why they were here, but I figured they could use a book,” Schuman said.

Public safety would not comment on their presence at the event.

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