(Washington, DC) I just signed a contract with The Florida Review so that they can re-publish my interactive novel, The Anachronist. It should appear there in July 2018, and it will reside on their digital platform, Aquifer. It also remains, at least for now, on my site. Four reviews are collected here.
Monthly Archives: February 2018
What’s Next, Alabama?
What’s Next, Alabama? is an issue guide created by the David Mathews Center for Civic Life in 2017 for Alabama Issues Forums 2017 – 2020. The issue guide provides a brief overview of economic issues facing Alabama and outlines three approaches in addressing economic infrastructure over the course of three forums. The David Mathews Center—a non-profit, non-partisan, non-advocacy organization—does not advocate a particular approach or solution to economic issues, but rather seeks to provide a framework for citizens to carefully examine multiple approaches, weigh costs and consequences, and work through tensions and tradeoffs among different courses of action.The issue guide, authored by Justin Lutz, Program Director at the David Mathews Center, outlines what “the economy” means to a community:
When we talk about “the economy,” we don’t just mean jobs and unemployment or the stock market. We define the economy as any issue that is important to your community on its quest to achieve a better life. Perhaps it’s ensuring quality schools in your community, or expanding broadband internet access, or having an educated and sober workforce, or a thriving downtown area—the economy is the community you live in, and your capacity to thrive and prosper as a part of that community.
The issue guide outlines three types of economic infrastructure: physical, human, and civic. These are used to examine the current state of a community, assess what the community would like to change, and map out a way to make those changes, over the course of three forums:
Forum One: Where are we now?
The first forum addresses the current state of economic issues in a community. Participants are introduced to both local and statewide economic data and are asked to reflect on both the assets and challenges within their community. The objective of the first forum is to allow the participants to become familiar with all aspects and concerns of their community and their fellow citizens before deciding on a direction in which to take their community.
Forum Two: Where do we want to go?
The next step is for the group to decide, together, what they want the future of the community to look like. Participants are asked to identify and examine issues impacting the economic infrastructure of their community, and to then consider the strengths, opportunities, resources, and trade offs associated with each option. The goal of the second forum is for the community to identify and prioritize an issue or set of issues in which they would like to affect change.
Forum Three: How do we get there?
In final forum community members must take the components of the previous forums and decide what issues to address first and what actions to implement. Participants must consider who to involve, what challenges may arise, what work is already being done and can it be built upon, what actions are the most doable, and what are the next steps. At the end of the forum the community should walk away with a clear idea of what changes they can make together and where to start.
Watch the introductory video below about What’s Next, Alabama?
About DMC Issue Guides…
David Mathews Center issue guides are named and framed by Alabama citizens for Alabama Issues Forums (AIF). Alabama Issues Forums is a David Mathews Center signature program designed to bring Alabama citizens together to deliberate and take community action on an issue of public concern. Digital copies of all AIF issue guides, and accompanying post-forum questionnaires, are available for free download at http://mathewscenter.org/resources/
For further information about the Mathews Center, Alabama Issues Forums, or this publication, please visit http://mathewscenter.org/.
Resource Link: http://mathewscenter.org/whatsnext
This resource was submitted by Cristin Brawner, Executive Director of the David Mathews Center for Civic Life via the Add-a-Resource form.
Addressing Safety in Schools by Turning to Each Other
In the wake of the current gun violence, NCDD sponsoring organization Essential Partners recently shared this piece written by their executive director Parisa Parsa, on the urgency for people to come together and address how do we keep our schools and communities safer. She talks about the need to come in conversation with each other from a place of creativity and with the purpose of recognizing our shared values, and rise above the current polarization. These conversational practices are vital in order to deepen relationships and ultimately work towards preventing another mass shooting from happening again. You can read the Essential Partner’s article below or find the original version here.
…As if our lives depend on it
The question was: what is at the heart of the matter for you when you think about the question of whether guns should be allowed in schools?
Seven people ranging in age from their 20’s to their 60’s, 4 women and 3 men, leaned in to listen closely to one another’s responses. They had many different views on the question of guns in schools, and guns in American life in general.
When it came time for him to speak, one man’s eyes welled with tears. After a long pause he said:
“Here is what is at the heart of the matter for me: I don’t want to be talking about this at all. I don’t want to live in a world where kids are not safe going to school. So when someone asks me what I think, all I can think is how can we make this stop?”
The simple recognition of our shared grief and anger brought more of the group to tears, and began a shift in the conversation. Person after person had already shared the values they learned growing up about guns, and now enriched by one anothers’ stories the sense of companionship led to a new entry point to thinking together. What would it take for our town prevent mass shootings?
The conversation later turned to social isolation and the need for folks to really look out for each other, to know each other’s’ children. And to offer services for those in need who might escape other attempts at outreach. And support for concerned parents.
The community still needed to talk about the issue at hand: the question of arming school personnel. But this small group was now also armed with the beginnings of a conversation that could help them work together on many of the other known contributing factors to preserve safety in schools. Perhaps, I thought, working on some of those other things together would help them deepen their relationship so that the continuing conversation about guns could have more creativity than the zero-sum perception both sides have been diving into. And which we dive into again and again.
Most recently, we’ve watched it in the wake of the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Social media has been awash, as ever, with people’s grief and anguish, fear and outrage. This time, the young people who survived the shooting almost immediately made a very pointed ask of our nation’s leaders. They asked the grown-ups in charge to sort out whatever needs sorting out to keep this from happening again.
The initial message they shared in the days immediately after the shooting was simple: as a nation we have to sort this out together. Their initial leadership was their refusal to accept that the current polarization in our conversation on guns is inevitable and permanent. And they are absolutely right to refuse the current story that this is an issue we cannot touch as a nation.
The students weren’t all, or even mostly, activists before the incident. Some were gun rights advocates, some gun control advocates, many more neutral and uninvolved. As the media conversation has continued, a predictable pattern has emerged: the loudest and most extreme voices have been amplified, put into debate mode with politicians at a Town Hall, lashed out on Twitter. And then came the responses: the kids are paid actors, being manipulated by left-wing interests, their Tweets analyzed and criticized for their violence and perceived extremism.
When the shouts begin, the door of possibility closes and we can’t figure anything out together. There is no listening, no further understanding, just suspicion and accusation. One “side’s” gains in activism get a counter-attack or build greater cynicism, driving the other “side” to feel justified in nasty rhetoric. So the win of one side becomes the rallying cry for the other, locking us in a battle few of us would have chosen. And the din leaves no space for the many folks who find themselves somewhere in the middle between the two defined “sides.”
The thing is, we can have sensible conversations with our neighbors who don’t agree. In our conversations about guns in Montana, Massachusetts, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Wyoming we have found some trends that are worth considering and also cause for hope.
- Taking the time as a community to work toward building trust and understanding (even when we don’t agree, and won’t agree) can in itself be a factor in reducing gun violence. A Yale study in 2014 found a correlation between high social cohesion and reduced gun violence. Dialogue about guns can actually be a preliminary preventative measure, reducing alienation and isolation; building trust and understanding.
- Neither gun rights advocates nor gun control advocates feel heard or understood by the other side, but when invited to share their values and beliefs without trying to persuade or convince, 97% of participants felt heard and understood. And 94% of participants believed they could use the dialogue process in other settings where there is a conflict over diverse views.
- When we spoke with focus groups about this issue, we heard shared values across the spectrum of belief on this issue: a desire to live in safe communities, a belief in the importance of education, and a sense of responsibility for others.
Friends, there is no one but us, no time but now, and no way forward without turning to one another. Let’s start engaging in deep, honest, conversations about this violence in our nation. Our communities, and our lives, depend on it.
Here are three things you can do today to change the conversation:
- Invite a friend or family member with different viewpoints into conversation, and propose these agreements to get you started.
- Share a reflection on how you came to your own position on the Constitutional right to firearms, gun control, based on your own experience. Let it open up a conversation that asks others to share their own.
- When you encounter someone with a view you don’t share, try asking a question that invites them to speak about their experience that led them to that view. Try: Tell me a story from your life that has shaped your thinking about this.
You can find the original version of this Essential Partner’s blog piece at www.whatisessential.org/blog/if-our-lives-depend-it.
Partecip@ttivi. Il confronto che moltiplica le idee. Palermo [Active-participation. Debate multiplies ideas]
my exchange with Beth Rubin about policy for civics
Paul G. Fitchett and Kevin W. Meuwissen have published Social Studies in the New Education Policy Era: Conversations on Purposes, Perspectives, and Practices. This edited volume is devoted to exchanges between pairs of scholars. My assigned debating partner is Prof. Beth Rubin from Rutgers, whose work I admire and who has influenced me a lot. There isn’t a whole lot of room between Beth and me, but we manage to disagree mildly in ways that might be illuminating.
I begin by arguing that the policies adopted so far by states and districts for civic education matter, but not as much as how such policies are implemented. Support for things like professional development makes policies either work or fail. I also note that the policy debate reflects disagreements about what should be taught. Given such disagreements, no one can expect to get the curriculum that she or he prefers enacted into law in all 50 states. I propose a division of labor: public schools should teach relatively uncontroversial, relatively basic civics, and community-based groups should add more politically charged content that reflects their diverse perspectives.
Beth understandably worries that the mainstream curriculum mandated by governments will, in fact, be biased. She argues that governments should make schools good places for learning, leaving civics curricula mostly unconstrained by policy. That would imply skepticism about policies like standards and tests, because they centralize decisions about the curriculum. I counter by offering a state policy agenda that includes standards, professional development, reforms of school discipline, and tests–if they are well done. This package is fairly minimalist, intended to create a baseline for all kids while leaving space for diversity. Beth ends the exchange with some concerns about whether the “baseline of knowledge” that I want to see in state standards can really be good for all of our kids.
The rest of the book is entirely devoted to similar debates, and it looks good throughout.
Winter Updates from AASCU’s American Democracy Project
For those working with civic engagement and higher ed, we wanted to share these recent updates from AASCU’s the American Democracy Project about several exciting opportunities! Coming up this Wednesday, February 28th from 1-2pm Eastern, is a free webinar on assessing civic competency and engagement, and how these efforts translate to student learning. Second, there are three different national ADP awards nominations that are now open and are due by March 30. Finally, check out the upcoming 2018 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting (#CLDE18) on June 6-9, hosted by the American Democracy Project (ADP), The Democracy Commitment (TDC), and the NASPA Lead Initiative. You can read the announcement below or find the original on ADP’s site here.
ADP Winter 2018 Updates & Announcements
With our recent effort to significantly increase our ADP programming, you might be interested in some of the upcoming ADP activities, including opportunities to get national recognition for deserving folks on your campuses. Please pass along to those who might be interested as well. Thank you in advance for your support
Free Webinar Featuring Assessment of Civic Competency and Engagement
Wednesday, February 28 | 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. EST
Walking our Talk: Converting Civic-Focused Mission Statements to Student Learning
Many higher education institutions include complex civic concepts as part of their missions, but how do we know if we are translating these lofty goals into student learning? Assessment is often viewed as a secondary or even bureaucratic institutional practice but done well it supports learning improvement processes that prioritize student development, organize institutional efforts, and direct change. This session will discuss recent ETS research initiatives focused on national trends in the assessment of civic competency and engagement as well as an institutional perspective on assessing and addressing these skills in students.
Presenters: Ross Markle, Senior Assessment Strategist for Higher Education, ETS; and Kara Owens, Special Assistant to the President for Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment, Salisbury University (Md.)
Nominations for Three ADP National Civic Engagement Awards Due March 30, 2018
- The William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement is given each year to an AASCU chief academic officer in recognition of his or her leadership in advancing the civic mission of the campus. Chief academic officers may be nominated by anyone. The president or chancellor must endorse the nomination. Nomination materials for the 2018 Plater Award must be submitted electronically by March 30, 2018. For information and cover sheet: http://www.aascu.org/programs/adp/awards/WilliamPlater/
- The John Saltmarsh Award for Emerging Leaders in Civic Engagement is presented annually to an emerging leader (e.g., early career faculty/staff) in the civic engagement field from an AASCU institution. Emerging Leaders may be nominated by anyone. Nomination materials for the 2018 Saltmarsh Award must be submitted electronically by March 30, 2018. For information and cover sheet: http://www.aascu.org/programs/adp/awards/JohnSaltmarsh/
- The Barbara Burch Award for Faculty Leadership in Civic Engagement is presented annually to a senior faculty member in the civic engagement field from an AASCU institution. Senior ADP faculty members may be nominated by anyone. The provost or chief academic officer must endorse the nomination. Nomination materials for the 2018 Burch Award must be submitted electronically by March 30, 2018. For information and cover sheet: http://www.aascu.org/programs/adp/awards/BarbaraBurch/
Participate in ADP’s National Conference: The 2018 Civic Learning & Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting
Wednesday, June 6, 2018 to Saturday, June 9, 2018
Hyatt Regency Orange County • Anaheim, California
The American Democracy Project (ADP), The Democracy Commitment (TDC), and NASPA are committed to advancing the civic engagement movement in higher education. Join us in Anaheim, California for our annual conference which brings together faculty, student affairs professionals, senior campus administrators, students and community partners. Together we will ensure that students graduate from our colleges and universities–both public and private–prepared to be the informed, engaged citizens that our communities and our democracy need.
Learn more about ADP and how to be engaged during our ADP Organizing Meeting on Thursday, June 7 from 9 a.m. – Noon. Annual awards will be presented during this meeting.
For more information: http://www.aascu.org/meetings/clde18/
Register now for the best rates.
You can find the original version of this ADP blog post at: https://adpaascu.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/adp-winter-2018-updates-announcements/.
Creating a Florida C3 Hub!
We here at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship are strong advocates of the C3 Framework. The emphasis on inquiry, and actually doing something with that inquiry, is civic learning at it finest, and we believe that the C3 Framework would be an excellent model to build standards and curriculum around. It seems that Florida is now making some moves towards providing teachers with an opportunity to embrace the C3.
Over the past few years, the social studies community has established a repository of Inquiry oriented lessons from various states at C3 Teachers.
This website is an excellent resource with a variety of K-12 inquiry lessons that can be modified to fit Florida standards and benchmarks. But, you may ask, where is Florida? Well, for a variety of reasons, Florida has fallen behind others states in using elements of the C3 Framework (though some districts like Pasco and Brevard have begun using the language of C3 in curriculum development and pacing).
Happily, this may be about to change. Dr. Jane Lo of Florida State University and Mr. Michael DiPierro, the social studies consultant of the State Department of Education, have announced a new project and opportunity that will create a C3 Hub for Florida! From their recent call:
WHO: We are seeking K-12 Florida social studies
teachers to be involved in an exciting lesson
creation project funded through Title IV-Part A and
managed by the Florida Department of Education
and Florida State University. Florida K-12 teachers
of all social studies content areas may apply
WHAT: This project is seeking teachers with experience
writing and implementing inquiry based lessons in the social
studies classroom. Selected lesson writers will participate in
a series of virtual professional development activities and
one face-to-face professional development session on the
C3 Inquiry Design Model with experts in the field. The
professional development is intended to help writers create
two lesson plans using the Inquiry Design Model. Lesson
plans will be shared with fellow teachers on the National
Council for the Social Studies C3 hub site. Lesson writers will
be compensated for their travel, professional learning, and
approved lessons. In-service points will be available to
submit for district consideration. More information will be
provided to selected writers.
WHEN: A virtual logistics meeting will occur in May 2018. A
face-to-face PD session will be conducted in summer 2018.
The lesson writing process will take place during Fall 2018,
with continued virtual professional development and
support (approximately one check-in per month). The
expected completion date of the lessons is January 2019.
The lessons will then undergo a review process, during
which time, writers may be asked to provide revisions. The
goal is to have lessons to share with the broader social
studies teaching community by Fall 2019.
WHY: This is a great professional development opportunity
that allows teachers to work with experts to hone their
inquiry lesson writing skills as well as inquiry pedagogy. This
process will also allow us to create a Florida C3 Hub so that
Florida social studies teachers can have a reliable resource
for rigorous inquiry plans.
HOW: To apply for a writer position, please fill out this form
online by March 23rd, 2018. Contact Dr. Jane Lo, Assistant
Professor, Social Studies Education, firstname.lastname@example.org and copy
Michael.DiPierro@fldoe.org, FLDOE Social Studies Education
Specialist, with any questions or concerns.
This is a great opportunity to help develop an incredible resource for Florida teachers, and we here at FJCC would love to see what you come up with for civics!
the Kenya Youth Manifesto
The Kenya Youth Manifesto is great. It’s the product of an elaborate deliberative process involving Kenyans between the ages of 18 and 35 (a cohort that represents 57 percent of the electorate). The Manifesto offers 52 pages of detailed recommendations. I’m sure it has specifically Kenyan underpinnings that I have missed, but from my perspective, it looks pragmatic rather than revolutionary, concerned with participation and voice as well as economic outcomes, attuned to issues like gender and disability, and consistent with Amartya Sen’s “capabilities approach.”
In his foreword, Willice Okoth Onyango depicts “youth as a distinct but heterogeneous population group.” He sounds like Sen when he calls for “build[ing] the capabilities and expand[ing] the choices of young people by enhancing their access to and participation in all dimensions of society.” And he calls for “young people and their representative associations” to be included “at all stages of the policy development and implementation process.”
Any group that writes a manifesto must avoid recommending policies that are simply unaffordable, settling for minor tweaks, demanding blatantly obvious reforms, neglecting the most obvious reforms in the interest of being original, setting vague targets, setting overly narrow or short-term targets, advocating elaborate processes (such as new commissions or research studies), ignoring process altogether, placing all the demands on target authorities, promising to solve all problems themselves, simplifying complex issues, or offering too much wonky detail. This sea is full of shoals. I think the Kenyan youth navigate just about as well as can be done.
Their product is more like a party manifesto (what Americans call a “platform”) than, say, the Communist Manifesto, which offered a compelling new social vision. The Kenya Youth Manifesto couldn’t simply be implemented, because it would need various kinds of scarce resources–not only money but also political capital. I know far too little about Kenyan social issues to be able to assess the recommendations. But it’s an impressive product that’s worth imitating elsewhere.
Promoting Mental Health in Community (IF Discussion Report)
The 18-page discussion report, Promoting Mental Health in Community, was published by Interactivity Foundation in October 2015 and edited by Nneka Edwards and Suzanne Goodney Lea. This is the initial draft of the discussion report; IF is planning to create a full discussion guide that communities can use when gun violence occurs in order to take mental health concerns into consideration when developing public policy. Below is an excerpt of the guide, which can be downloaded as a PDF for free from IF’s site here.
This is a unique discussion project for IF, in that we have collaborated with the parents of a young man who was shot and killed in a mall rampage shooting in Columbia, MD, back in January 2014. The young man who was killed (Tyler) was one of two young people killed before the gunman took his own life. The shooter was only 18 and was most likely in the early stages of schizophrenia; he had actually tried to seek mental health care, but to no avail. Tyler’s father did an interview on a local news station, and I was struck by his poise and compassion. I’d never seen a parent in such a horrible situation exhibit such genuine empathy towards the shooter and his family.
It turns out that Tyler, who was just 25 when he was killed, had spent three years sober after overcoming addiction challenges. He got sober once he made the connection for himself between his addiction issues and his own mental health state (he was manic depressive). He had spent the three years before his death helping others to make the same connection between mental health and addiction so that they, too, could overcome their drug/alcohol dependencies. The number of lives he touched surprised even his parents, who were moved by the many stories of the connections and healing Tyler had put out into the world around him.
Tyler’s parents have a strong desire to carry on Tyler’s work by helping citizens to become more aware of their own and others’ mental health—and of the importance of good mental health, more generally. They are generally interested in creating a space to explore these issues in meaningful ways. Violence is so rampant in American society, and, too often, efforts to discuss ways to curtail it become confounded by important debates over guns and gun restrictions. Meantime, underlying mental health factors—which also must be discussed if we are to reduce the frequency and impact of these events–rarely get seriously explored. We hope to begin to alter that narrative by providing the interesting array of possibilities in this discussion guide for exploration within communities of varying sizes and locations. Very few American communities have been untouched by sudden eruptions of violence in a public space.
IF’s discussion guide on depression is by far the least discussed of any of our discussion guides. This likely reflects the stigma associated with mental health conditions. What’s interesting, however, is that when that discussion guide is discussed, the quality and meaningfulness of the discussion to its participants is marked. We hope that your group’s exploration of the ideas and possibilities in this discussion guide will better inform your participants about things that they and/or their family members may be facing without even realizing it and about how to find and create the resources and support that will help to stave off the sorts of mental health disasters that too-often erupt within our communities.
If you are interested in further information about the process used to develop IF reports or IF’s work in general, we invited you to consult our website at interactivityfoundation.org
About the Interactivity Foundation
The Interactivity Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to enhance the process and expand the scope of our public discussions through facilitated small-group discussion of multiple and contrasting possibilities. The Foundation does not engage in political advocacy for itself, any other organization or group, or on behalf of any of the policy possibilities described in its discussion guidebooks. For more information, see the Foundation’s website at www.interactivityfoundation.org.
Follow on Twitter: @IFTalks
Resource Link: www.interactivityfoundation.org/discussions/promoting-mental-health-in-community/
What would you like to see at NCDD 2018?
NCDD’s staff is in the beginning stages of conference planning, and as we do each conference year, we’d like to hear from the D&D community about what you’d like to see, do and experience at this year’s National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation. Over the next twelve days (through March 9th), we’ll be seeking ideas from the NCDD community via email, social media, and the blog.
NCDD conferences look and feel a bit different each year because our events are experiments in collaborative planning, and our planning team is highly responsive to our community’s needs and energy.
- Remember at the 2016 conference when we lifted up #BridgingOurDivides with special panels on “Philanthropy and Fundraising” and on “Journalism and Public Engagement“?
- Remember the graphic recordings and maps of numerous networks within the field at the 2014 conference?
- Remember the “conservatives panel” at our 2008 national conference in Austin (with Grover Norquist!), Playback Theatre in 2004, the Catalyst Awards process at our 2012 conference, the showcases and networking sessions, and the great speakers and participatory processes we’ve featured at all of our conferences?
NCDD’s national conferences bring together 400+ of our community’s most exciting leaders, innovators, learners, and doers, for an event that enables us not only to network and learn from each other, but to tackle our greatest collective challenges head-on, and to set the direction for our field.
What we cover at our conferences, and how we cover it, is important for this ever-growing, ever-changing field — and we want your input! Everyone in the NCDD community (members, past conference attendees, subscribers, social media friends) is welcome to participate.
To help you get started, NCDD’s staff and board would like to share some of our thoughts with you and get some feedback. We notice that with the extreme partisan rancor of our current political environment, coupled with the continuous tragedies around gun violence and so much more – has many in this country calling for the need to be able to better listen to each other with more understanding and civility, to work more effectively across differences, and to improve the way people engage in democracy.
Just what our field specializes in.
So for the 2018 conference, we think making space at this year’s conference to dig deep into how we can bring the work of the dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement field out from what seems like the “fringes” and into greater visibility and use. There are so many valuable processes and resources that our field works on, and we’d like to explore the ways in which we can further make this work commonplace and bring it into widespread practice. We’d like to hear from you whether this resonates, and what ideas you might have for how we might explore this together.
We’re also seeking more ideas. As you consider our intentionally broad framing question, “What would you like to see happen at NCDD 2018?”, think about…
- What do you think about the idea above?
- What topics would you like to see covered?
- What ideas do you have for awesome activities?
- What would you like to contribute to this year’s event?
- What could we do this year that might improve your work?
- What could we do that would help us move the field forward?
- What can we do while we’re together that we can’t easily do virtually?
- Dream big, or be specific… it’s all good!
Please share your responses to these questions in the comments below, via our discussion listserv, and on social media.
If you’re interested in playing a role at the conference, helping with planning, or just attending, be sure to fill out our interest form for NCDD 2018, too!
We’re excited to hear your ideas and to get working on putting together another great conference!