Why do we teach civil discourse, data on current events, data on current student demo?


If you’re wondering the importance of including social discourse in our work as educators picture this:


It’s 8 am. I’m an educator sitting at my desk. And, here are some things I have experienced so far today:


– While I was drinking a cup of coffee I read a “twitter war” regarding the treatment of immigrants in my country.


– On my drive to school, I listened to a radio host discuss a shooting that occurred in my country as an act of hate.


– When I sat down to check my email, I overheard a student outside my office declare, “That’s so gay,” in reference to something he did not like.


Three specific reasons, and it’s 8 am.


Seem ridiculous? Probably. Many of us have grown immune to these experiences, is this our new normal? So why are we teaching civil discourse in the classroom? A better question would be, why aren’t we?


It is our obligation as educators – rather it is our obligation as adults in a contemporary society – to encourage students to be curious, seek alternate perspectives, have empathy, think critically, engage in civics… and the list goes on.


One manner in which to do all of those things simultaneously is to set up a structured and supported way to dialogue about contemporary, multi-faceted topics in our classrooms with the guidance of educators, source materials and a structured curriculum that will help students apply critical thinking processes in ways that will be replicable.  Run a quick Google search and you will see Civil Discourse described like this: Civil discourse is engagement in discourse (conversation) intended to enhance understanding.


“Conversation intended to enhance understanding.”  Let’s analyze a few models of contemporary conversation that are currently available to our students.  1. Reality TV which is not so real and gains an audience by treating each other poorly and harming others emotionally and occasionally physically.  2. Social media conversations in which people can blast, one-sided, any comment with no accountability to other humans. 3. “Alternative facts, fake news,” and biased information shared through various forms of media.


Given this reality, it is imperative that we give students the chance a model and guidance on how to participate in conversations.