What is the “Backfire Effect”?

During my lifetime, I have met and continue to meet and interact with people from all walks of life. There are two major topics that I try to avoid discussing: politics and religion. When it comes to both and I am respectful, tolerant and understanding of all points of view.  My background, experiences, and upbringing will just not allow me to take one position and never budge from it.  So I tend to be more eclectic and reject labels.  I have lived and traveled all over the world and seen and experienced too much to be that intractable. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!

Several months ago I was listening to NPR and heard that once people take a stance, 90 percent of the time they are not likely to budge. People are not very likely to change their views even when convinced otherwise.

Below are excerpts from two online articles about this.

Dr. Alex Lickerman writes in  The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-in-world/201003/getting-people-change-their-minds

“Changing another person’s mind is literally one of the hardest things to do in the world. Think of how many conversations you’ve ever had in which one of the participants decided the other was right and abandoned their previous views altogether. It almost never happens.

Why? Because even though ideas flit in and out of our heads like mosquitoes, ideas that are believed cling with electromagnetic power. Once we believe an idea we develop an emotional connection to it, not to mention a commitment to it—as if to a person—and often become attached to it with a strength we often don’t realize has little to do with the merit of the belief itself. And once we’re attached to anything—whether a person, place, thing, or idea—giving it up is extremely hard.”

I provide another article on the Backfire Effect


“In a perfectly rational world, people who encounter evidence which challenges their beliefs, would first evaluate this evidence, and then adjust their beliefs accordingly. However, in reality this is seldom the case.

Often, when people encounter evidence that should cause them to doubt their beliefs, they reject this evidence, and strengthen their support for their original stance. This occurs due to a cognitive bias known as the backfire effect. The Backfire Effect is a phenomenon where people who encounter evidence that contradicts their beliefs, strengthen their support for those beliefs, despite the new evidence to the contrary.

  • This effect has been observed in various scenarios, such as people supporting a political candidate more strongly after negative information about that candidate is released.
  • The backfire effect is a type of confirmation bias,that occurs because when people argue strongly against unwelcome information, they end up with more arguments that support their original stance.
  • There is variability in terms of when people are influenced by this effect, but since this variability is difficult to predict, it’s better to act under the assumption that the backfire effect will play a role in people’s decision-making process.

Now you may have a better understanding of why some people do not and will never agree with you, no matter what compelling evidence you provide, or vice versa.  Un

The World Cup: Diversity Wins!

Soccer is my favorite sport. I have played my whole life and coached kids from five years old all the way up to the college level.  I was a much better coach than I was a player. The last month or so has been World Cup fever all over the world. I was able to watch many of the weekend games and watched the final yesterday. France won! The French team was the perfect example of international/ethnic diversity, with names like Griezmann, Mbappe, Pavard, Pogba, Fekir, Hernandez, to name but a few. It was a beautiful thing to see players from all over on the world stage claiming the biggest prize of them all. The French team has players with roots from all over the world, but most of them were born in France. Migration has certainly played an important role here. But it goes beyond soccer and permeates the entire society.

In many developing nations, soccer is the only way out of poverty for many youngsters, While education is the key, many, because of circumstances, are not able to obtain an education. When I was a child we played barefooted on rocky ground; and many still do. We used anything round we could find when a soccer ball was not immediately available. I remember the piecing together of paper and tape, using rotten oranges and much worse. It’s just what we did. In many European nations, soccer is used as a tool for integration and a ladder out of poverty. The French and Belgians are great examples of such integration.

The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world. Yes, it is bigger than the Olympics and the Super Bowl. This is both in terms of number of fans and in economic terms. Soccer continues to grow as a sport here in the United States. Just yesterday, after the World Cup, there was a Major League Soccer (MLS) game between the Atlanta United Football Club and the Seattle Sounders Football Club; the Atlanta stadium was filled with a record 72, 200 fans. These U.S. teams also have a diversity of international players.

While my two favorite teams, the United States and Ghana did not make it to the World Cup this time, there is still hope for 2022. Meanwhile there is some poor kid living under dire and challenging circumstances, just like a Pele or Mbappe, who will show up on the world stage to show the world that in soccer, all things can be equal. Many times, diversity emanates from migration, so migration has its role in any nation. I end by saying that the United States is the greatest nation in the world because of our diversity. And France is the greatest soccer nation in the world today because of the diversity of their soccer team. Diversity wins!

Student Speech Class Topics

It’s almost summer, the weather is nice, and I am spending more time walking the campus and visiting offices and classes.

This morning, I spent two hours in Prof. Mark Bergmooser’s Speech class. I heard eleven speeches from eleven students. Out of the eleven topics covered, three were on texting and distracted driving, and two were on organ donation. Topics included: meditation as a stress reducer (I have got to try that some time), texting and driving (I have done that on occasion), organ donation to save lives (I have been one for years because I do not think my organs will be of any use to me after I am dead), Anime’ – a Japanese cartoon (don’t know much about it and seems a little too violent for me), endangered species ( elephants I know are endangered, but wolves too?), Chicken ordinances ( the speaker brought a live chicken to the classroom – this was a layer, so it is meant to lay eggs, not meant for lunch), sex trafficking (and a petition to free a young lady who killed her trafficker/abuser). Each student had six minutes to speak and most used technology of some sort, such as You-tube videos and PowerPoint.

What I enjoy most about my classroom visits is that I always, always, learn something new. The students all did well. As would be expected, they all had different styles and personalities. One or two were strict readers, others were more conversational, and it always helps when they tell a personal story, as many did. I think I will go back on Monday to hear the rest of the presentations.


Campus Safety and Security

As we are all keenly aware, safety on college campuses is a major issue. We do not take it lightly. To ensure greater campus safety, we provided Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate (ALICE) training to all employees a few months ago. While that was a step in the right direction, we have added additional safety equipment. Beyond that, there is so much preventative work and investigation that goes on behind the scenes to ensure a safer campus.

Recently we installed the door latching technology, Bearacade.  Bearacade is a tool that the College has purchased and made available to employees, students, and campus visitors in the event  that “lock down” is a chosen strategy for addressing a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation. As evidenced by the numerous “active shooter” and other dangerous scenarios that have played out over the years at high schools and colleges (as well as other public venues), no entity (including the College) can eliminate all risk regarding such situations. Therefore, it is important to encourage everyone to become knowledgeable about options for counteracting dangerous situations and to actively participate in maintaining their safety. The Bearacade technology is one measure that we have taken, after an extensive review of various technologies and options.

There are several options for effectively utilizing the door latching technology, within the allowance of federal, state and local safety codes. The device may be left on the door but the pin may not be activated until a situation for doing so presents itself; permanently affixing the device on the door would violate safety/fire code. The College continues to explore, on an ongoing basis, methods and technology to provide effective safety measures for all those in the College community, and will continue to inform the College community of such measures.

We ask you to please inform students as to safety measures that are available, and how and when to implement those measures, including Bearacade. If you have any suggestions as to specific measures or technology that the College should consider, we would welcome those suggestions.

The College remains vigilant about campus safety, and will continue to explore and implement proven technologies for counteracting threats to the safety and security of its employees, students, and visitors.


Enrollment, ‘Decisions Days’ and our Middle College

Like many other community colleges across the nation, we at MCCC continue to fight the enrollment battle. Our enrollment is much more stable than it is at many other institutions. However, the struggle continues.  Fortunately for MCCC, we have been able to supplant some of the enrollment losses on the credit side with gains on the non-credit/workforce training side, and our dual enrollment/Direct College numbers continue to grow.

Over the last few weeks, I have been privileged to attend “Decision Day” events at several of our local high schools. On “Decision Day”, students declare their post-secondary plans. Yesterday, I was at Airport Community High School, where 46 out of 147 have chosen MCCC. That is over 30 percent — a good thing. Last week I was at St. Mary’s Catholic Central High School where 10 out of about 70 chose us; not bad but could be much better. The week before I was at Whiteford Agricultural High School and Monroe High School, where we had decent numbers, especially at Monroe High School. Two weeks ago, it was our own Middle College, where 84 percent of the students who walked across the stage earned their associate degree from MCCC a week before being awarded their high school diploma. Now, that is success!! Our Middle College graduates earned an average of 59.4 college credits from MCCC.  Recently, our Middle College was named one of the top high schools in the nation, and last year, our Middle College had the highest average SAT score of any middle college in the state of Michigan. Now that’s nothing to sneeze at!

Everyone knows that I love the Middle College and as I have stated publicly, as long as I am here, they will always have a place here. Because they bring so much vibrancy to our campus and most of them complete their degree here. I know that not everyone agrees with my assessment of the situation, but that does not negate the facts.  Middle College students are leaders in Student Government and various other organizations and they stay here much longer than our traditional students. We are proud of our Middle College, and as we enrich and transform the lives of these students, they enrich and transform our campus.

Peace and Reconciliation

I attended John Patterson’s memorial service yesterday. John was the President of the Monroe Visitors and Tourism Bureau. He was only 58 and died suddenly and very unexpectedly.  John was my friend. This coming Saturday, my family will be burying my cousin, who also died unexpectedly; he was 63. After that we will bury my cousin’s wife, who also died unexpectedly last week, she was 62. There is so much death and tragedy around us, but as difficult as it is, we must persevere and stay positive. Why sweat the small stuff when we are confronted by life and death issues every day?

On the national and global front, there is a lot happening, much of which is not very positive:

  • Our children are being shot and killed in our schools
  • There are protests and chaos in our streets
  • There is racial unrest
  • Our mothers, sisters, and daughters are saying “never again” and “me too”
  • The political landscape is uncertain and highly volatile
  • Our national debt continues to climb and stock prices are tumbling
  • The war on terror continues with no signs of ending

The world is in trouble but we must continue to keep hope alive! Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed because he espoused peace and reconciliation. A little over 2,000 years ago Jesus died to bring about greater peace and reconciliation.

Are we there yet? No. But progress is being made and we must continue to show love and care for one another to make a better world for all of us.  Let’s stay positive and keep hope and love alive. That is the only way we can bring about greater peace and reconciliation.


The NAACP Stands for Equal Rights and Justice for ALL People

I was featured on the front page of the Tuesday February 20, 2018 Monroe News. The article was titled “Resurgence: Push is on to reactivate the NAACP in Monroe”. Coincidentally, on page 8A of the same edition was another article titled “Diversity Pays: ‘Black Panther’ scratches hunger for inclusivity”.  Some key words common to both articles are “diversity”, “inclusivity”, and “unity”. One article focused on entertainment, the other focused on action, both with a common purpose.

I am writing this article to dispel any notions about the NAACP being an African-American only organization or one that is divisive. To the contrary, the purpose of the NAACP is to unify all people with a common cause. The Monroe News NAACP article states that “…one’s skin color or ethnicity shouldn’t have an impact on whether a person wants to join the organization. The group focuses on civil rights for all people.” Indeed, the NAACP is about ALL people. That is clear in its mission, which is “To ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

Here are a few salient facts about the NAACP.

The NAACP or National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was established in 1909 and is America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. It was formed in New York City by white and black activists, partially in response to the ongoing violence against African Americans around the country. In the NAACP’s early decades, its anti-lynching campaign was central to its agenda. During the civil rights era in the 1950s and 1960s, the group won major legal victories, and today the NAACP has more than 2,200 branches and some half a million members worldwide.

Some additional facts:

  • Former Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall was NAACP’s chief legal counsel who argued and won Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954 – desegregating public schools.
  • Mary White Ovington, a white female was first Board chair, and a white lawyer, Moorfield Storey was its first president; the only black person on the initial leadership team was W.E.B. Du Bois
  • The NAACP successfully lobbied for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin; and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, barring racial discrimination in voting,.

Among famous whites who belonged to the NAACP were: Albert Einstein, John Dewey, Jane Addams and Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt served on the NAACP board of directors. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. both belonged to the Montgomery, Ala., NAACP. But as a result of the Montgomery bus boycott, Alabama outlawed the NAACP, and so King and others formed the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC). Unlike the NAACP, which tended to wage its battles in the court, the SCLC emphasized nonviolent direct action.

So for those who are interested in ensuring civil rights, racial justice, non-discrimination, social justice equal rights for all, unity,  and believe that America and Monroe are not where we need to be, this is an opportunity to join other like-minded individuals as we attempt to take our entire community to the next level.