Dialogue … Is An American Value ®

Louis Brandeis, a former US Supreme Court Justice, stated that “In a democracy, public discussion is a political duty.” But what kind of discussion?  What promotes civic capacity?

As the public education reformer John Dewey said “we can have facts without thinking but we cannot have thinking without facts.”  How can our discussions be better informed?  How can we share perspectives and experiences in positive ways?

Our guides can help inform, and help citizens practice, civic dialogue.  You can scroll through these guides on this site or download them as PDFs.

Some of the posts from our early years are set forth below and we will be adding others. You can also review more tips for building dialogue on the Blog for Building Dialogue. We look forward to working with you.

New Resource From A Student

A middle school student named Alex visited our blog and suggested that we share this resource he found on the three branches of government. Thank you Alex and we are glad you are learning about how your government works. Keep up your studies – you can find some other cool resources here.

Moving Beyond Negative Norms

As we mentioned in some of our previous posts, dialogues are regularly plagued with the sorts of oppositional behaviors (finger-pointing, name calling, ridicule) that make constructive solutions to real problems difficult to achieve.  Other factors undermining effective dialogue include wishful thinking, simple dismissal of alternative viewpoints, insistent oversimplification, jockeying for credit, and unwillingness to trust in others.  If we are to make dialogue a part of our self-governance, how do we go about moving beyond these negative norms?

This is no easy task.  What we may require is a sea change in the way we do politics.  What must we do to create a truly inclusive and functional public sphere that leads citizens into dialogue, helps them collaborate to develop the knowledge needed to make good decisions, and then results in those decisions being reflected into policy and action?

From Dialogue to Policy

In our previous post, we indicated that interlocking sets of bounded dialogues may be necessary to make broad scale public dialogues more productive in evaluating or implementing policy changes.  While many can agree that dialogue is a useful tool for public engagement, it is not so clear how this dialogue can or will intersect with or influence the legislative or regulatory processes that lead to changes in policy.  And dialogue cannot be expected to replace procedural or other safeguards inherent in those other processes.  Sustained and informed dialogues that are designed to interact with those processes could over time help make those processes more accountable to the public, and serve both to educate the public and inform decisionmakers.  Americans indicate that they want greater involvement with, and greater transparency and accountability from, their government, yet, it is unclear exactly what this means.  Is the general public prepared for intensive and informed dialogue?  Why or why not?