A Vision of Civil Discourse through Shared Experiences
When we speak, it is hopefully in a civil manner.” Simply put: “being nice.” Civil discourse, however, is much more than that. It is, “Behaving in ways that are necessary for cooperative projects such as schools and democratic societies to work well” (McCormack, 2018). This issue is at the heart of what the Institute for Learning Perspectives is all about. The Institute's vision:
The Institute is a non-profit by educators, for educators dedicated to creating shared experiences that broaden perspectives and lead to a more informed, cohesive, and collaborative society.
The key words are “shared experiences.” We are social beings, after all. Research shows that often, we simply want to share any experience with someone else, whether they are enjoyable or not (Jolly, 2019). In addition, “Young children do not just come to imagine what is in other minds on their own; rather, they come to this understanding through certain types of social and communicative interactions with others that require them to compare their respective perspectives” (Tomasello, 2018).
Shared Experiences and Learning
The benefits of classroom practices such as cooperative and collaborative learning are mainstays in today’s schools and the benefits are numerous. Students share books, writing, theories, and opinions to name a few. Why not shared immersive experiences using augmented and virtual reality? Sharing the exact same experience will not yield the same thoughts and feelings of each participant as we don’t all see or hear the same things. Experiencing something with others, however, does open the door to discuss and learn from others’ perceptions and reactions. Consider how, as we age, we love to talk about the “good ol’ days” with someone who actually lived in those days? Or, remember the white/gold or blue/black dress social phenomenon in 2015? People around the world talked and argued and searched for explanations for weeks!
Civil Discourse Skills and Lessons
First and foremost, students are guaranteed a right to free speech in public schools (Tinker vs Des Moines Independent School District, 1969). Listening skills, including comprehension, often take a back seat to other language skills. This is a mistake--take it from a Supreme Court Justice in this video. Get started teaching this to students by using the tools made available by the experts in civil discourse: The National Constitution Center’s Civil Discourse Toolkit. It uses contains several lessons, techniques, and materials including setting norms, discussion protocols such as Harkness, Socratic, and Fishbowl, and post-discussion reflections. Their new Classroom Exchanges program can take discourse to the next level by matching up with other classes.
Immersive Classroom Experiences: U.S. Constitution
What is the Story of Our Constitution?
Visit various locations around the United States and discover the story of the Constitution. Students use norms and protocols to discuss what "We the people" means to them.
Alexander Hamilton and the Ratification of the Constitution
Americans argued and even fought over the adoption of the United States Constitution. Alexander Hamilton and the other Federalists supported the new form of government. Anti-Federalists opposed it. The sites and documents in this Expedition will immerse you in this contentious era. Students use norms and protocols to discuss the "rights of man" versus "the Dignity of Government."
Use Google Tour Creator to Build Your Own Constitutional Experience
Have each student take a 360 photo of something that represents an important principle in the Constitution. Using norms and protocols, students can share and discuss images and how they represent concepts in the Constitution.