“With an open heart, we can learn to stand in each other's shoes, and see through each other's eyes…we can embark on the hard work of negotiation, and reconciliation…we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right.” – President Barack Obama, July 12, 2016, Dallas, Texas
Despite the encouragement from U.S. President Barack Obama above, commentators, scholars, and casual observers alike have been calling the 2016 Presidential election one of the most polarizing and divisive in recent memory. Genuine dialogue between those with differing and competing views on contentious political issues seems in decline in both public and private spaces. In place of civil dialogue, conflicts seem to escalate through use of social media on Twitter, Facebook, and anonymous blogging that is often demonizing and dehumanizing. This reading group will provide participants with an opportunity to explore the possibilities, benefits, and limits of sustained, civil dialogue on the most contentious political issues of the day. We will also explore some of the reasons for the decline of civil conversation in contemporary American life.
Meetings of the Reading Group will be devoted to reading and discussion on the purposes, shape, form, methods, limits, and critiques of political dialogue. In addition, there will be four optional sessions devoted to providing participants a chance to engage in challenging, political dialogue on issues related to the 2016 Presidential election. These issues may include U.S. immigration policy, race & criminal justice reform, gun control, the Supreme Court, and U.S. counterterrorism policy at home and abroad. The elective sessions on political dialogue will be facilitated by students enrolled in The Lawyer as Facilitator Workshop.
The only pre-requisite for this Reading Group is a willingness to engage openly and bravely with classmates on political issues that may touch on identity, emotions, perceptions, privilege, and perception.
Attendance at all class sessions is required.EDIT PLAYLIST INFORMATION DELETE PLAYLIST
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|1||Show/Hide More||Session 1: What and Why?|
What is dialogue?
Why, and why not, dialogue about political issues?
Wesley Morris, “Why Calls to a National Conversation Are Futile,” The New York Times Magazine, August 2, 2016, accessed August 25, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/07/magazine/why-calls-for-a-national-conversation-are-futile.html.
Russell Berman, “What’s the Answer to Political Polarization in the U.S.?”, The Atlantic, March 8, 2016, accessed September 2, 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/whats-the-answer-to-political-polarization/470163/.
Susanne C. Moser and Carol L. Berzonsky, “There Must Be More: Communication to Close the Cultural Divide”, draft to be published in The Adaptive Challenges of Climate Change, edited by Karen O’Brien and Dr. Elin Selboe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), pp. 1-23.
|2||Show/Hide More||Session 2: American Repertory Theatre for: "Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education"|
Since we first announced this Reading Group, we learned that Anna Deavere Smith’s new play Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education is being performed at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge. The play deals with an important set of issues relevant to Election 2016, namely the school-to-prison pipeline and the intersection of America’s education system and its mass incarceration epidemic. A special feature of the play is that Act II consists of facilitated small group conversations, scattered throughout the theatre, where audience members engage with others about their reaction to what they just witnessed. Given how connected the play and its dialogue component are to the subject of our Reading Group, we sought and were fortunate enough to obtain tickets for all members of the Reading Group to attend on the evening of September 15. Because of the event’s dialogue component, we are considering the performance to be one of our six class sessions.
|3||Show/Hide More||Session 3: Then and Now|
What has caused the decline of civil conversation in contemporary American life?
Is the current climate unique in American history?
What has dialogue looked like in the past in the United States?
Michael Barber and Nolan McCarty, “Causes and Consequences of Polarization” in Negotiating Agreement in Politics, edited by Jane Mansbridge and Cathie Jo Martin (Washington, D.C.: American Political Science Association, 2013).
John Gastil and William M. Keith, “A Nation That (Sometimes) Likes to Talk”, in The Deliberative Democracy Handbook, edited by John Gastil and Peter Levine (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005), pp. 3-19.
Ron Chernow, “The Feuding Fathers”, The Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2010, accessed September 2, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704911704575326891123551892.
“478: Red State Blue State — Transcript”, This American Life, originally aired November 2, 2012, accessed September 6, 2016, http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/478/transcript.
Jon Keegan, “Blue Feed, Red Feed: See Liberal Facebook and Conservative Facebook, Side by Side”, The Wall Street Journal, May 18, 2016, accessed August 20, 2016. http://graphics.wsj.com/blue-feed-red-feed/.
|4||Show/Hide More||Session 4: Insights From Psychology and Social Science|
What psychological and sociological factors are at play in group dialogues about contentious political issues, particularly those that cut to the core of identity and belief?
|5||Show/Hide More||Session 5: Politics, Media, and Society|
What are the political forces, trends, and structures that help or hinder citizens’ ability to dialogue effectively about contentious political issues of the day?
Ezra Klein, “How Politics Makes Us Stupid”, Vox Magazine, April 6, 2014, accessed September 21, 2016. http://www.vox.com/2014/4/6/5556462/brain-dead-how-politics-makes-us-stupid.
John McWhorter, “What Clinton Should Have Said About Race”, The New York Times: The Opinion Pages. July 13, 2016, accessed September 21, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/14/opinion/what-clinton-should-have-said-about-race.html?r=0.
Seth Flaxman, Sharad Goel, and Justin M. Rao, “Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers, and Online News Consumption”, Public Opinon Quarterly, Vol. 80, Special Issue, 2016, [read pp. 298-307, skim pp. 307-317].
Jacob Z. Hess, Danielle Rynczak, Joseph D. Minarki, and Joycelyn Landrum-Brown, “Alternative Settings for Liberal-Conservative Exchange: Examining an Undergraduate Dialogue Course”, Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 20, 2010, pp. 156-166.
Jacob Z. Hess and Nathan R. Todd, “From Culture War to Difficult Dialogue: Exploring Distinct Frames for Citizen Exchange about Social Problems”, Journal of Public Deliberation, Volume 5, Issue 1, 2008, [read pp. 1-6, skim pp. 6-19, read pp. 19-27].
|6||Show/Hide More||Session 6: The Role of Narrative and Story in Political Dialogue|
What do individual stories bring to dialogue?
What is the role and impact of political dialogue on individual stories?
Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, “Bone Chips to Dinosaurs: Perceptions, Stories, and Conflict”, in The Handbook of Dispute Resolution, edited by Michael L. Moffitt and Robert C. Bordone (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005), pp. 150-169.
Stephen Hawkins and Tommy Flint, “Two Stories, One America: How Political Narratives Shape Our Understanding of Reality”, Kennedy School Review, 2016 Issue Blog, July 20, 2016. http://harvardkennedyschoolreview.com/two-stories-one-america-how-political-narratives-shape-our-understanding-of-reality/
Brian Resnick, “How Politics Breaks Our Brains, and How We Can Put Them Back Together”, The Atlantic (from the archive of National Journal), September 19, 2014, accessed September 26, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/09/how-politics-breaks-our-brains-and-how-we-can-put-them-back-together/453315/.
“Restoring Political Civility: An Evangelical View”, OnBeing with Krista Tippett, October 14, 2010, accessed September 26, 2016. http://www.civilconversationsproject.org/transcript-for-restoring-political-civility.
Anne Fowler, Nicki Nichols Gamble, Frances X. Hogan, Melissa Kogut, Madeline mcCommish, Barbara Thorp, “Talking with the Enemy”, The Boston Globe, January 28, 2001. http://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/genwom/talkingwith.html
“Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, Pro-Dialogue”, OnBeing with Krista Tippett, July 25, 2013, accessed September 26, 2016. http://www.civilconversationsproject.org/transcript-prolife-prochoice-prodialogue-20130725.
Jacqueline Suskin, “One Poem That Saved a Forest”, YES! Magazine, July 21, 2015, accessed September 26, 2016. http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/make-it-right/one-poem-that-saved-a-forest.
|7||Show/Hide More||Optional Additional Reading|
Optional additional reading:
December 05, 2016
Robert C. Bordone, Rachel Viscomi, and Adriel Borshansky
Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinic
Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program