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Prius or Pickup?: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America's Great Divide by Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler

Published in October of 2018.

Let’s start this review of Prius or Pickup? by stealing the questions that motivated the book:

Although there are a number of qualities that people feel children should have, every person thinks that some are more important than others. I am going to read you pairs of desirable qualities. Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have.

  1. Independence versus respect for elders
  2. Obedience versus self-reliance
  3. Curiosity versus good manners
  4. Being considerate versus being well behaved

According to political scientists Hetherington and Weiler, how you answer these questions will better explain your political affiliation than how you think about the government’s role in healthcare or the economy.

Voting is not driven by a rational cost/benefit analysis of the issues, and a decision about where one’s self-interests and beliefs best align with a party or a candidate. Rather, we vote on the basis of our worldviews.

Some of us have a more fixed mindset, where our primary concerns revolve around stability, security, predictability, and definite standards.

Others of us have a more fluid worldview, where we prioritize progress and are willing to navigate complexity and embrace nuance.

The question that Hetherington and Weiler ask in Prius or Pickup? is if those with fixed and fluid worldviews can find common political ground? Can those who voted Republican and those who voted Democrat in the 2016 presidential election find a way understand, and maybe even empathize, with each other?

I would very much like our IHE community to be a place that welcomes higher ed people with diverse worldviews.

There is always lots of discussion about the liberal bias of professors. My sense is that the story is a bit more complicated, but that faculty worldviews are not as heterogeneous as the population as a whole.  

What I also think is that higher ed is made up of more than professors. I’ve spent a couple of decades working in and around educational technology, and I can tell you that there is a broad spectrum of worldviews and political affiliations of members of this profession.

I have a hypothesis that Republican women are strongly represented in educational IT. There is also a strong strain of libertarian thinking among higher ed technologists.

I’d say that more of my edtech colleagues drive pickups than Priuses (or is it Prii?), but maybe that is a small New England college town thing.

If you answered: 1) “elders” 2) “obedience” 3) “good manners” or 4) “well behaved” to any of the questions above, do you feel that IHE is a supportive community?

Do you feel that you fit in well at your campus and in your higher ed profession?

If Prius or Pickup? had come out before November 2016 then its authors would have been called geniuses. If I had read this book in October of 2016, perhaps I would not have been so surprised in November.

As it stands, reading this book has me more worried not less about November 2018 and November 2020.

What are you reading?

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