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Cooperation

13 May

Cooperation

Today I asked my English class students to do some work using Hackpad.com (mentioned in the last post, in Norwegian). I wanted help solving my Rheingold class homework:

«We often implicitly think of cooperation as a positive, but individuals can cooperate in the pursuit of very negative ends too (e.g., genocide, structural racism, etc.). Given that we may be ‘pre-wired’ to cooperate with our ‘tribe’ (understood broadly as any ‘imagined community’), what can be done at the individual-level to mitigate the forces that tend to generate compliance, conformance, or solidarity that are implicated in these ‘dark’ forms of social cooperation?»

THis is a tough one, for sure. I spent some time simply trying to understand the question (as did my teenage students, obviously). At first I thought the question was how we could stop all crime/negative cooperation, so to speak. Then I looked again and saw that it was quite different: it is about «mitigating the forces» – reducing what brings people to cooperate for bad reasons.

I discussed with my students and some said that when people are gang members, for instance, there is usually something «in it» for them there – protection, belonging, survival, escape. We then looked at a short video about «fixed mindset» and «growth mindset» (with Carol Dweck, several videos on Youtube).

By the end of the lesson, I am not sure we got any closer. One student pointed out this, though: «An individual with limited resources, educational opportunities, and a general negative outlook at their perspective future are prime candidates for gang membership» (gangs seemed like an understandable approach to the question, and some students referred to «The Godfather» or «American History X»). Better, still: «Trying to prevent or creating some sort of solution for this type of conflict relies on a massive reform within how we portray the world we live in today».

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