The Problem with Charter Schools: courteous conversation #4

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For a lot of us choosing the right school for our children is an important and stressful question. We even buy houses based on school districts. This is a choice that could determine the future success of our children. So it’s no surprise that people have strong feelings around this topic. To David, charter schools offer some attractive alternatives, but Maura-Lee has large reservations.

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An Open Conversation on Abortion: Courteous Conversation #3

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This is our third Courteous Conversation. They are both a little nervous. Kelly had even called Laura beforehand to explain that she only asked her to do this because she trusted their friendship.

Kelly is very pregnant, which adds some gravity to a conversation about Abortion. She is pro-life and her friend Laura is pro-choice. They’re both young mothers and their children play together in the next room as they talk. During the course of the conversation, one of Kelly’s children has a pretty bad accident, and we stop the cameras while Kelly cleans and Laura gets a change of clothing from her own daughter’s room that they can borrow. Continue reading

Courteous Conversations: Destroying our own freedom of speech


It was not easy to find people like Dan and Jonathan.

The first thing to know is that Dan and Jonathan are both Mormons, a generally conservative group, and yet they disagree over whether homosexual marriage should have been legalized. Dan is strong, confident, and has a beard while Jonathan is clean shaven and skinny.

David explains the rules of Courteous Conversations and then pauses. The camera is already rolling, but as David is about to ask Jonathan to state his beliefs about homosexuality, he second guesses himself, fumbles a little, and then says, “you’re on camera, so we understand if you don’t want to say something.” Continue reading

Courteous Conversations: Talking across political lines

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Brian is a soft-spoken man who invites us into his living room while he retreats into a back room to finish putting the children to sleep. His wife is out playing volleyball with friends. Brian has blonde hair, blue eyes, and holds moderately conservative views.

I mention his political silhouette because that is the reason we have come. Our goal is to find people who disagree over potentially polarizing issues, and find a way to have them talk together and, more remarkably, listen. Continue reading

How to have Courteous Conversations about Polarizing Issues

Video trailer for Courteous Conversations

At the beginning of the summer, David and I set out to find a way to help people who disagree over polarizing issues—even passionately, and often angrily—talk productively together. Fed up with the antagonistic political discourse so prevalent (and aggravated by the current presidential campaign), we wanted to create a situation where people would actually listen to the other side. (For a glimpse into why this kind of conversation is so important, check out this YouTube about political discrimination.) To do this, we had to remove incentives to argue, create a situation where participants felt safe, and take away platforms for rebuttal.

Here’s what we did: Continue reading