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learn about complex issues.

No matter the topic, there's lots to learn before making really good decisions. Research important topics. Discuss them with a wide variety of people, including people who disagree with you and people you dislike. Which information sources are reliable? Do some research and decide. When you learn about the world, you'll make informed choices when you vote, when you support other organizations, and when you advocate your beliefs.

Learn from people who think differently! Talk and listen to lots of people, including people who don't agree with you. Don't get trapped in communicating in a "bubble" of like-minded people. Talk with your extended social crowd and your extended family. Talk to people who you know disagree on many topics. Have conversations without necessarily advocating your ideas. Remember that learning isn't just about facts; learning how other people think will help you effectively advocate your views in the future.

Constantly assess credibility! If you look closely, some people and organizations lack any credibility. Some people and organizations are frequently misleading, frequently wrong, and frequently distort facts for a specific agenda. In the U.S., few media outlets are so bold as to call a lie a lie, so individuals must constantly assess the credibility of every speaker, source, group, or media outlet. Once you've made some decisions, advocate your findings and views with other people.

Research an issue thoroughly! Learn from multiple credible sources of information. If there is a related organization that you trust on a topic (civil rights, women's rights, or general news), go to their Web site and search/browse for a while. Look at opposing views too. Whenever possible, learn from an original source, for example federal legislation can be found online for the U.S. House and Senate. If in doubt, search google or ask your friends for reliable and detailed information on a subject.

Get news from radically different sources! Each media outlet has their own spin. And many corporate-owned media suffer make common assumptions, lack journalistic independence, or claim subtle allegience to the interests of owners, advertisers, and the nation's power brokers (including politicians). Listen to news outlets with very different views from yours. Even listen to people you don't like. Notice their various agendas and perspectives, which will help you assess credibility and get you closer to the truth.

Don't assume two sides to an issue! Sometimes political groups, political parties, and even media outlets themselves have an interest in portraying some issues as having only two sides. Sometimes that perspective is just bogus. Be brave enough to see complexity where it exists. Beware of those who always view the world as "us versus them" or imply there are only two solutions to any problem. Have the courage to advocate balanced viewpoints and complex conclusions when appropriate.

Come to your own conclusions! Many issues are incredibly complex. And yet truth and reasonable conclusions exist in the world. Sometimes people or organizations encourage the public to think that conclusions are impossible or distract people from the truth. Purposely muddling an issue in the public's mind is a strategy for some groups! They don't want you to come to inconvenient conclusions. If you are bold enough to decide what you think, you'll be prepared to vote, volunteer, and advocate!