WELCOME to the Global Seminar Series #5

The Global Spread of Political Polarization: The Hidden Pandemic | Fall 2021

Live Zoom Sessions: October 16th, October 23rd, and November 6th
Time: 9:00 – 11:00 am EST

Do you ever wonder why our world seems so divided? Do you want to learn why political polarization is one of the biggest threats to international cohesion and coordination to address pressing global issues? Are you curious about its impact on society, in your country, and around the world? More importantly, do you wonder what impact a polarized society has had on girls globally? Would you like to feel empowered to help shape this changing world and to connect with other teenage girls from around the world to work collaboratively towards developing solutions?

You are invited to participate in Miss Porter’s School’s new Global Seminar Series, “The Global Spread of Political Polarization: The Hidden Pandemic.” Miss Porter’s School is excited to partner with News Decoder, a global educational news service for young people, to offer this Seminar Series free of charge to girls around the world to bring you this three-week series.

Join us to explore the global spread of political polarization and the impact it has on democracy, the Covid 19 pandemic, as well as social, economic, and racial inequalities around the world. By learning about root causes and the key drivers of political polarization around the world, as well as its impact on society and girls in particular, you will gain a deeper understanding of international relations, how productive discourse leads to better outcomes and global cooperation and what role you, as an individual, can play in healing our divisions.

The Seminar Series will meet one time per week for three weeks, with 1-2 hours of asynchronous work between sessions. Each live session will be interactive and include at least one expert in the field. Students will participate in a Challenge by Choice group activity, collaboratively generating ideas and finding solutions to some of the problems that they have identified during the three-week Seminar. In the last session, each student group will pitch their action plans and then have the opportunity to receive feedback from other teams.

Divided World

Session 1: Polarized Politics: How did we get here?

Schedule: October 16, 9:00-11:00 am EST

Session Plan:
Keynote Speaker
Small Group Discussion

Essential Questions:

  • What is political polarization? What drives political polarization? Is it rooted in disagreement over political issues or is it more than that?
  • How do our views on polarizing issues vary depending on where we come from and what we learn in our homes
  • How is political polarization divisive?

Andrew O'Donohue

Andrew O’Donohue is the Carl J. Friedrich Fellow and a Ph.D. student in Harvard University’s Department of Government. His research focuses on democratic erosion, political polarization, and resistance to authoritarianism, especially in Turkey and Latin America. He is the co-editor (with Thomas Carothers) of Democracies Divided: The Global Challenge of Political Polarization (Brookings Institution Press, 2019). He has also written policy reports or op-eds for the Carnegie Endowment, the Center for American Progress, Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post, and other outlets and organizations. Previously, Andrew was a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow in the Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program at the Carnegie Endowment and a research fellow at Sabancı University’s Istanbul Policy Center. He received his A.B. summa cum laude from Harvard University.

Keynote Speaker: Andrew O’Donohue
Department of Government, Harvard University

Session 2: The Global Spread of Political Polarization and Its Impact

Schedule: October 23, 9:00-11:00 am EST

Session Plan:
Welcome Back
Panel Discussion
Small Group Project Work

Essential Questions:

  • How does the global spread of political polarization impact democracy, the pandemic, as well as social, economic and racial inequalities?
  • How are girls and women impacted by the spread of polarization?
  • Why has polarization become so prevalent and widespread  in recent years?
  • Are there similarities or patterns of polarization across different countries?
  • How are major world events impacted by political polarization within the host country and globally?

Professor Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

Professor Amra Sabic-El-Rayess is the author of the highly acclaimed book titled “The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival,” the stunning memoir of a Muslim teen struggling to survive in the midst of the Bosnian genocide. Dr. Sabic-El-Rayess is an interdisciplinary scholar who leverages fields of economics, sociology, and political science to address the questions of radicalization, discrimination, Islamophobia, social mobility, corruption, social transformations, and exclusion of women.

Panelist: Dr. Amra Sabic-El-Rayess, Columbia University

Nelson Graves

Nelson Graves is the founder of News Decoder, a global educational news service for young people. He is an experienced educator and administrator. Graves was a correspondent, Bureau Chief and regional managing editor at Reuters for 24 years, holding posts in Washington, Paris, New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Milan and Tokyo.

Session Moderator: Nelson Graves
Founder, News Decoder

Kate Bennett

Kate Bennett is a White House Correspondent for CNN, where her beat includes the Biden family, the first lady, the East Wing of the White House, and the mashup of style, society, and buzz in the nation’s capital. She’s been a lifestyle journalist for almost two decades, chronicling the intersection of people, pop culture, and politics.

Panelist: Kate Bennett, CNN White House Correspondent

Molly Jong-Fast

Molly Jong-Fast is an American author and pundit. She is the editor-at-large at The Daily Beast and hosts a podcast series, The New Abnormal. She is the author of two novels, Normal Girl and The Social Climber’s Handbook, and a memoir, Girl [Maladjusted]. She is a regular contributor to Vanity Fair, Glamour and The Atlantic.

Panelist: Molly Jong-Fast, The Daily Beast

Michael Paarlberg

Michael Paarlberg is an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University and an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies. His research focuses on migration and security issues and diaspora communities in Latin America and the US.

Panelist: Michael Paarlberg, Virginia Commonwealth University

Session 3: Healing Divisions and Promoting Productive Discourse

Schedule: November 6, 9:00-11:00 am EST

Session Plan:
Welcome Back
Small Group Project Work
Final Presentations

Essential Questions:

  • Once societies have become deeply polarized, what can they do to start healing their divisions?
  • Why is media literacy essential to having productive discourse in the face of political polarization?
  • How do we promote productive discourse? How can individuals use their unique perspectives to promote this discourse and help others become better informed about both sides of an issue?
  • What role does morality play in creating polarized viewpoints?