What role does civil discourse play in our world today? Our society is so complex these days that it is much more difficult for our leaders to come together and agree on any solution to a problem than it used to be.
Really? Is it more difficult than taking 13 independent colonies and joining them into one unified country? With people who have come from many different parts of the world? And no given rules to follow?
Disagreement has been part of our democracy from the very beginning. Our founders understood there is strength in diversity and that it’s a GOOD thing to have different perspectives and a certain amount of conflict. They planned our system of government so it wouldn’t be easy to make changes, so there would have to be debate and compromise. They understood the difficulty in that so they made rules for themselves to follow as they drafted what was to become our Constitution. They figured out how to have civil discourse. Here is a series of three 60 Second Civics Podcasts about Key Challenges facing the United States that help explain how they did it.
There are over 1100 60 Second Civics Podcasts on a wide variety of topics. The newest include a series on the Framers of the Constitution. Each podcast has a daily civics quiz question. They are developed by the Center for Civic Education.
The Center for Civic Education near Los Angeles is one of three partners in the Representative Democracy in America Project. Other partners include the Center on Congress at Indiana University and the Trust for Representative Democracy at National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver. Each of the partners has developed a range of teaching resources for students in grades 2-12. The resources range from 30 or 60 second clips to full blown online Virtual Congress.
I serve as Iowa’s coordinator for this project. Once upon a time we had funding to conduct face to face professional development. The resources are still all available for free online, so I am writing an online training to help teachers access all these amazing materials and share ideas on how to use them. The 60 Second Civics podcast series is one resource I definitely want to include in the training because they are so versatile – short, cover tons of different topics and a prewritten quiz question goes with each one. Teachers can use them as discussion starters, attention getters or in lots of different ways.
I selected this particular set out of the whole list because in the current atmosphere of accusations and partisan politics, I think all of us need to remember that there are ways we can talk about important issues even if we disagree. Our founders knew they would need some rules to follow to keep their conversations and negotiations productive. Wouldn’t hurt for us to revisit those rules. Wouldn’t it be great to have our students help remind our current elected officials how to truly engage in civil discourse for the good of the nation?