From Skepticism to Engagement: Building Deliberative Faith among Israeli College Students (Connections 2016)

The seven-page article, “From Skepticism to Engagement: Building Deliberative Faith among Israeli College Students” by Idit Manosevitch was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the third article of the newsletter, Manosevitch shares the story of when he initiated the first student-led deliberation conference in Israel and the profound effect it had on the students, staff, and school community. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

One of the spaces that seems appropriate for educating people for citizenship is academia. As an educational arena with a public mission and young citizens as key players, it may—and some would argue ought—to be a hub of civic education for deliberative public skills and values. This captures the essence of deliberative pedagogy, an area of ongoing research at the Kettering Foundation.

In what follows, I tell the story of what inspired me to get involved in deliberative pedagogy and share some insights from experimentation with Israeli students in recent years.

On January 16, 2013, six days prior to the Israeli general elections, I initiated the first student-led deliberative issue conference at the School of Communication in Netanya Academic College in Israel. The event was tagged “Students say NO to the horse race: Elections Conference 2013.”

The conference was a peak event in an intensive three-month process with my undergraduate seminar students, which combined theory and practice. Theoretical readings and discussions served as a baseline for understanding the essence of deliberative theory and the role of public deliberation in democratic societies. The hands-on process of preparing for and facilitating a deliberative, student-led issue conference complemented the theory and helped students internalize the idea of public deliberation, the norms and values associated with it, and the challenges of pursuing such ideals in practice.

Faculty had cautioned me not to expect more than 50 participants because students—as I should well know—are uninterested, unengaged, and unwilling to make extra efforts beyond the mandatory degree requirements. My students were also wary, and rightly so. A week prior to our deliberative election conference, a political panel took place in the same conference hall, with representatives from 12 different parties running for office. The event was stopped in the middle due to a political dispute, in which the audience began shouting and booing one of the representatives. It was a very disappointing and embarrassing experience for the college community. My students were concerned about moderating group discussions—What if participants don’t talk? What if they get violent and we cannot control them? Some suggested we hire security guards.

But the concerns turned out to be unwarranted. The conference outcomes exceeded everyone’s expectations—students and faculty alike. We had an unexpected turnout of 127 student participants, which surpassed my goal of 100 students. After the opening plenary, students broke up into 10 groups that engaged in lively discussions of the selected election issues. Faculty members were startled to see students actively participating in civilized discussions led by their fellow classmates. So were the student-moderators. I cannot help smiling when I recall that beautiful moment when I stood humbled in the middle of the conference hall immediately after the end of the discussions, and numerous students approached me, excited to share their reflections. Group moderators were thrilled about their experience, and first-year students were anxious to find out how they could sign up to serve as moderators next year. Before I knew it, a new tradition was born.

This is just an excerpt, you can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2016 issue of Connections, edited by KF program officer and senior writer/editor Melinda Gilmore; KF senior associate Philip Stewart; and KF vice president, secretary, and general counsel Maxine Thomas, focuses on our year-long review of our multinational research.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/sites/default/files/periodical-article/Manosevitch-Connections-2016.pdf

Deliberation: Touching Lives across National Boundaries (Connections 2016)

The six-page article, “Deliberation: Touching Lives across National Boundaries” by Maura Casey was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the second article of the newsletter, Casey discusses the 2016 convening of the Multinational Symposium, held by Kettering, in which participants shared the various approaches occurring in their countries to better engage youth in democratic processes. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

In March, people from around the world gathered at the Kettering Foundation to explore the approaches that groups from Tajikistan, Germany, India, Brazil, Russia, and the United States are taking to civic education and learning—approaches that range from rap music to deliberative forums. The Multinational Symposium is an annual series of meetings organized by Kettering. Each year, the symposium has a different focus. In 2016, the symposium explored, how do young people learn to engage in the practices of citizenship in a democracy? What can be learned from experiments in using deliberative practices in the civic education of young people?

The approaches are all different. Germany is using music and meetings with public officials to engage youth; in Russia, libraries are the neutral ground for young people to flock to forums; in Brazil, the Steve Biko Institute helps people raise their voices and take pride in their racial backgrounds. But the goals are the same: to develop young people into citizens.

Citizens all have at least one thing in common: no matter what nation they come from, sooner or later they gather to ask one another, “What should we do?” The Kettering Foundation has long researched what comes after that question: how people overcome differences to deliberate together and make good decisions.

Inevitably, sometimes are more turbulent and challenging than others. That’s the situation those from Brazil say they face.

Widespread protests over economic and political upheaval pose a special challenge to teachers in Brazil. “Democracy seems shaken due to recent events,” said Telma Gimenez, who also stated that even wearing certain colors of clothing can be interpreted as a political act, revealing allegiances for or against the government. “People are fighting. The question is, how can schools go against the current atmosphere to reach students? We help teachers take advantage of the educational moment.

For Gimenez, that means convening deliberative forums using issue guides on topics like bullying not only to explore the nuances of the issue, but also to allow students to relate their own personal experiences. “We use [the forums and guides] to show the complexities and get away from the confrontational aspects of an issue.”

“Brazil became a democracy in the mid-1980s after a dictatorship lasting decades,” said Andreia Lisboa De Sousa, who works with youth at the Steve Biko Institute. “We forget that; the political culture is not very new.” The Biko Institute has worked for 22 years to teach the skills needed for citizenship to black and native students. Approximately 6,000 students have attended the Citizenship and Black Consciousness course at the institute. Others have undergone leadership training there. “Brazil is seen as a model of racial democracy, but when you see the material conditions of these people, we don’t have equality,” she said.

Stefanie Olbrys, a social studies teacher in the Windsor Central School District outside of Binghamton, New York, said that when she was a student, she did not view her voice as an instrument for change. Now that she is an educator, she is determined to give her students a different experience. “Every day, I began to say to my students, ‘What do you think?’” In her classes, the students began to deliberate every day and became so engaged in learning that their marks improved and they began to hand in assignments more consistently. Other teachers and administrators also noticed the changes. Now, many more teachers in her school district are using deliberation in their classrooms. “Our state education department sees this as valuable and wants teachers to do this all over the state,” Olbrys said. “It will help students become life-long learners.” One state education department official visited her classroom and asked one of her students, “What are you learning?” The student replied, “I’m learning how to be a leader.”

This is just an excerpt, you can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2016 issue of Connections, edited by KF program officer and senior writer/editor Melinda Gilmore; KF senior associate Philip Stewart; and KF vice president, secretary, and general counsel Maxine Thomas, focuses on our year-long review of our multinational research.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/sites/default/files/periodical-article/Casey-Connections-2016.pdf

Global Responsibility for Children (IF Discussion Guide)

The 20-page discussion guide, Global Responsibility for Children, was published by Interactivity Foundation in 2015 and edited by Mark Notturno. For this discussion guide, IF brought together [in video conference] panelists from 14 different countries to explore what is means to take responsibility for children and what would policies can be put in place that would uphold this task. Below is an excerpt of the guide, which can be downloaded as a PDF for free from IF’s site here.

From the introduction…

Children are, almost by definition, the most vulnerable social group in our global society. They are often among the first victims of social crises: be they humanitarian crises arising from natural disasters, military crises arising from wars and other international conflicts, political crises arising from revolutions, human rights crises arising from abusive political regimes, psychological and physiological crises arising from sexual molestation and child abuse, or family crises arising from the divorces, breakups, and crimes of their parents. Children have been neglected, abandoned, and even killed by their parents and caretaker, both in myth and real life, and infanticide has a long history in Europe, China, and India. Indeed, the history of mankind has recorded wide scale abuses against children arising from the poverty, ignorance, and hatred of adults, caretakers, and other children – and from the unintended consequences of well-intended public policies designed to protect them.

Dickens chronicled the abuse of children in orphanages. Marx described the exploitation of children in the workplace. And Freud explained how the mind of a child could abuse itself. But children are not only vulnerable to being abused. They are also vulnerable to abusing others. They are notorious for bullying smaller children. They sexually molest and rape other children, sometimes brutally, and they frequently give birth outside of marriage. They use drugs, sell them on the street, and entice other children into addictions. They steal. They organize gangs that terrorize their neighborhoods. And, with seemingly increasing frequency, they kill other children, adults, and even their parents.

Churches, labor groups, teachers, and other reformers have long lobbied for child labor laws. And in the 19th and 20th centuries, a series of laws in Britain and the United States gradually shortened the hours, improved the conditions, and raised the age at which children can work. The United Nations’ 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, however, was the first legally binding international instrument to expand the full range of human rights to children. The Convention says that children everywhere have the right to survive; the right to develop their potential to the fullest; the right to protection from harmful influences, including abuse and exploitation; and the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. It also sets standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services. All of the nations of the world, with the exception of the United States and Somalia, have ratified it. And they have, by doing so, committed themselves to develop and undertake all of their policies and actions in light of the best interests of the child or, simply put, to assume responsibility for our children.

But what, exactly, is a child? What are the different dimensions of childhood? Should we regard everyone under a certain age as a vulnerable child? Or everyone over that age as a responsible adult? And what, in any event, constitutes an abusive practice toward children? What are children vulnerable to? What does it mean to assume responsibility for a child? What are the different dimensions of such responsibility? How can a political convention, or a state, protect children when the world around them has been torn by war, natural disasters, or the breakup of their families? How can a political convention, or a state, protect the human rights of children if and when they are in conflict with the beliefs, values, and traditions of their families, societies, and cultures? How can we know what is in the best interest of a child? What concerns might parents, family members, and societies have about states assuming responsibility for their children? And what concerns might they have when states hold them responsible for the actions of their children?

This international online project brought together panelists from fourteen different countries in video-conferences to explore the different concerns that people might have about global responsibility for children, and develop different conceptual policy possibilities for addressing them.

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

The PDF version of this report is available for download here

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/global-responsibility-for-children/

The Future of K-12 Education (IF Discussion Guide)

The 20-page discussion guide, The Future of K-12 Education, was published by Interactivity Foundation and edited by Adolf Gundersen; based on discussions facilitated by Gunderson, Dennis Boyer, Sue Goodney Lea, and Zeus Yiamouyiannis. This guide provides five policy perspectives regarding learning and the nature of education. From IF, “The discussion report on the Future of K-12 Education grew out of a longer-term project discussion in 2006-2008 that produced an initial set of more conceptual or theoretical possibilities for education in general. These possibilities were eventually re-rafted to make them somewhat more practical or policy oriented. And the revised possibilities were then tested in four additional public discussion series in the fall of 2010. Overall, six different discussion panels (meeting in four regions of the country) and seven IF facilitators/fellows contributed to the development of this report.” This report is available in Spanish and can be found on IF’s site here.

Below is an excerpt of the guide, which can be downloaded as a PDF for free from IF’s site here.

From the introduction…

Purpose and Origin of This Report
You are here because you’re interested in discussing the future of K-12 education. The materials in this Citizen Discussion Report will help you do so in a way that is exploratory, rather than competitive or argumentative. The more exploratory your discussion, the more likely you will leave thinking about K-12 education as a social concern and about how public policy might respond to it. You will also be better equipped to make more informed choices as a citizen.

This report has two main parts: a short list of possible questions and answers about K-12 education policy, followed by five public-policy responses. The information is designed to help launch your discussion. It will serve as a point of departure for your discussion, not as a map of what’s already been “discovered” through expert study or what’s been agreed on by influential groups. It will also help keep your discussion exploratory, as it provides general possibilities rather than final answers.

The descriptions you will find here examine a variety of perspectives on K-12 education policy, while maintaining the idea that there are always more to consider. Because they are general, or conceptual, there should guide you in examining the “big questions”, while helping you avoid technical arguments over details. They invite you to develop them further or come up with entirely new ones of your own.

Who Developed the Report
This report is a product of the Interactivity Foundations (IF), a nonpartisan public-interest foundation that was established to promote citizen discussions like the one you are about to have. One of IF’s roles is to produce discussion materials like this report.

Typically, IF reports result from a series of discussions that unfold over the course of a year and half. They are organized and conducted by a single IF fellow, who also edits and collects the material in the form of a report. In this case, an IF discussion project produced an initial set of possibilities, which were then re-drafted and tested in four additional discussion series during the fall of 2010. In all, six discussion panels (meeting in four regions of the country) and seven IF facilitators had a hand in this report.

Generally, participants in IF projects are selected for their ability to think creatively and constructively about the chosen area of concern. Discussion panelists are then divided into two groups: one of expert-specialists; the other of citizen-generalists.  The advantage of having two groups is that the resulting discussion report will draw on different and complementary skills. The expert-specialists contribute professional or special knowledge; the citizen-generalists contribute their life experiences and general insight. When they come together at the end of a project, each group’s thinking enriches the other’s.

Another important feature of the IF process is that IF panels meet “in sanctuary”, meaning panelists are guaranteed confidentially from start to finish. This way, they are not expected or obligated to assert their authority, defend a particular constituency or organization, or avoid probing questions or mistakes. They are free to think and speak openly and creatively. This also means that those who discuss IF reports are free to focus on the ideas presented rather than the personalities or backgrounds of the authors.

In other OF projects, discussion panels are free in another important sense; they make selections or decisions through a deliberative process of exploration and convergence rather than consensus or compromise. Panels can take their time exploring and developing a wide range of possibilities. Convergence occurs as panelists agree on a range of possibilities that they believe are worthy of public discussion rather than ones they personally or collectively endorse. In addition, throughout the sanctuary discussion process, any single panelist can keep alive a particular possibility simply by asking that it be preserved. This procedure helps ensure that the panels achieve their goal of developing a series of contrasting possibilities, rather than a single set of recommendations or conclusions.

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

The PDF version of this report is available for download here

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/future-of-k-12-education/

How Should We Reduce Obesity in America? (NIFI Issue Guide)

The issue guide, How Should We Reduce Obesity in America?, was published on National Issues Forums Institute site in Spring 2017. This issue guide gives three options for participants to deliberate around the issue of obesity in the US. In addition to the issue guide, there is a moderator’s guide and a post-forum questionnaire, all available to download on NIFI’s site here.

From the guide…

Obesity is a health problem that is growing rapidly in the United States and other parts of the world. In this country, it is epidemic. About one in three Americans is obese.

It may be natural for people to gain at least a little weight later in life. But that is no longer the issue. The problem today is that by the time American children reach their teens, nearly one in five is already obese, a condition all too likely to continue into adulthood.

This issue guide asks: How should we reduce obesity in America? It presents three different options for deliberation, each rooted in something held widely valuable and representing a different way of looking at the problem. No one option is the “correct” one, and each option includes drawbacks and trade-offs that we will have to face if we are to make progress on this issue. The options are presented as a starting point for deliberation.

Option One: “Help People Lose Weight”
Take a proactive stance in helping people lose weight— persuasion and education by families and doctors, and the establishment of consequences by employers and insurance companies. Losing weight is a personal decision but it is one that affects all of us.

Option Two: “Improve the Way Our Food Is Produced and Marketed”
Although our food system does a good job of keeping the cost of food low, many of the resulting products are both very unhealthy and very enticing. We need to get better control of our food production system, including how foods are marketed to us, and ensure more equitable access to healthy foods.

Option Three: “Create a Culture of Healthy Living and Eating”
This option would promote overall, lifelong wellness by making sure our children start learning to make better choices as early as possible. This option also calls for reshaping our neighborhoods and buildings to help us get more exercise.

Continue reading

Equity in School Forums: An Interview with John Landesman

The 14-page article, Equity in School Forums: An Interview with John Landesman (2016)was written by Carolyne Abdullah, Christopher Karpowitz, and Chad Raphael, and published in the Journal of Public Deliberation: Vol. 12: Iss. 2. In the article, the authors interview Landesman of Everyday Democracy to share his experience working to address the barriers within the Montgomery County Study Circles Program, which he helped to coordinate. Landesman clarifies the importance between equality and equity; and how these play out when designing a process to effective address the power dynamics that arise within school spaces between admin, faculty, parents, and students.

Read an excerpt of the article below and find the PDF available for download on the Journal of Public Deliberation site here.

From the article…

For adults and youth, American public schools are a major entryway to public engagement. Not only are public schools charged with preparing students for civic life, but they are the custodians of parents’ educational and economic aspirations for their children, often the largest recipients of taxpayer funding in a community, neighborhood hubs that host public meetings and events, and institutions that are formally accountable to the community through school boards, parent teacher associations, and other public forums. Schools need active support from their communities to approve school bonds, attract donations, enlist mentors and volunteers, approve (or at least accept) curriculum reforms, engage parents in supporting their children’s learning, and address social problems such as academic achievement gaps among students of different racial and income backgrounds, bullying, and gangs. Yet, like other institutions of democracy, public school governance is often dominated by the voices of politicians and policy makers, professionals (administrators and teachers), and privileged citizens (parents of higher socio-economic status) (Nabatchi & Leighninger, 2015).

In Maryland, the Montgomery County Public School system offers a hopeful example of how public dialogue can improve school governance. John Landesman, a Senior Associate at Everyday Democracy, coordinates the Montgomery County Public Schools Study Circles Program. The program engages parents, students, staff, and administrators in dialogue to address racial and ethnic barriers to parent involvement and student achievement in this multilingual, multi-ethnic school district. These dialogues have helped to build trust and collaboration, and increased involvement by parents of color, as well diminishing differences in achievement among students from more and less advantaged backgrounds (Childress, Doyle, and Thomas, 2009; Orland, 2007; Fagotto & Fung, 2009).

In this interview, Landesman explains how Everyday Democracy thinks about equity and equality, and how the organization integrated equity considerations throughout the process of organizing study-circle dialogues in Montgomery County, including recruiting and retaining diverse participants, forming agendas, facilitation, small group discussions in affinity groups of less-powerful participants as well as mixed groups, evaluation, and implementation of plans. The techniques discussed here can be adopted or adapted to forums on schooling and many other issues.

Equity and Equality
Abdullah, Karpowitz, and Raphael (AKR): Some people working in dialogue and deliberation have argued that instead of practicing equality by treating people 1 Abdullah et al.: Equity in School Forums: An Interview with John Landesman similarly, we should strive for equity by treating participants differently in order to create conditions that achieve fair discussion and decisions. Do you see this distinction between equal and equitable treatment as useful to our field and in your own work?

Landesman: I do see a distinction. There’s a picture that we often use in our presentations of three boys trying to look over a fence at a baseball game (see Figure 1). In the first panel, which shows equal treatment, each boy is standing on a box that is the same height. The tall boy can see the game over the fence, the middle boy can barely see, and the shortest boy can’t see at all. In the next panel, which shows equity, the tall boy’s box has been given to the little boy, so now all three of them can see the game. The idea is that everyone needs something different to participate in whatever they’re doing. But to me, this feels like the wrong question. The question should be, “What is the goal of the dialogue, and who needs to be in the room to make the dialogue effective?” If the goal is to have a variety of perspectives deliberating together, then organizers need to think about how to recruit for those different perspectives. If there are people who need something different to be part of it, but having their voice will make the deliberation more effective, then organizers have to use different strategies to get them there.

Think of successful companies like Coca-Cola. Their goal is to sell more of their products. They don’t just develop their product and then say, “OK everyone, come get it.” They spend a lot of time and resources thinking about how to get different kinds of people to buy their products. If the goal of deliberation is to have a richer understanding of an issue based on all the different perspectives that are in the community, than we need to spend time thinking about how to ensure that we get all those perspectives in the room.

In my experience, organizing for diverse perspectives is often an afterthought. Organizers plan the way they always have, and then say, “How do we get Latino participants or low-income folks, or people who have different political perspectives?” That never works, because all we’re doing is adding an extra strategy to what’s already been put in place. Successful organizing starts by asking, “What is the goal of the dialogue, and who needs to be in the room to reach that goal?” Then every piece of the organizing—whether it’s the outreach, the facilitation, the setup once you get there, where it’s located—all of those things are driven by who you want in the room and what perspectives you need to hear to make your dialogue effective. That’s a very different way of looking at it than saying, “We’re going to do it the way we’ve always done it, and now we’re going to develop a strategy to get to these so-called marginalized people.”

This is an excerpt of the article, which can be downloaded in full from the Journal of Public Deliberation here.

About the Journal of Public Deliberation
Journal of Public DeliberationSpearheaded by the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in collaboration with the International Association of Public Participation, the principal objective of Journal of Public Deliberation (JPD) is to synthesize the research, opinion, projects, experiments and experiences of academics and practitioners in the emerging multi-disciplinary field and political movement called by some “deliberative democracy.” By doing this, we hope to help improve future research endeavors in this field and aid in the transformation of modern representative democracy into a more citizen friendly form.

Follow the Deliberative Democracy Consortium on Twitter: @delibdem

Follow the International Association of Public Participation [US] on Twitter: @IAP2USA

Resource Link: www.publicdeliberation.net/jpd/vol12/iss2/art12/