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Deliberation: Touching Lives across National Boundaries (Connections 2016)

The six-page article, “Deliberation: Touching Lives across National Boundaries” by Maura Casey was published in Kettering Foundation‘s 2016 edition of their annual newsletter, Connections – Kettering’s Multinational Research. In the second article of the newsletter, Casey discusses the 2016 convening of the Multinational Symposium, held by Kettering, in which participants shared the various approaches occurring in their countries to better engage youth in democratic processes. Below is an excerpt from the article and Connections 2016 is available for free PDF download on Kettering’s site here.

From the article…

In March, people from around the world gathered at the Kettering Foundation to explore the approaches that groups from Tajikistan, Germany, India, Brazil, Russia, and the United States are taking to civic education and learning—approaches that range from rap music to deliberative forums. The Multinational Symposium is an annual series of meetings organized by Kettering. Each year, the symposium has a different focus. In 2016, the symposium explored, how do young people learn to engage in the practices of citizenship in a democracy? What can be learned from experiments in using deliberative practices in the civic education of young people?

The approaches are all different. Germany is using music and meetings with public officials to engage youth; in Russia, libraries are the neutral ground for young people to flock to forums; in Brazil, the Steve Biko Institute helps people raise their voices and take pride in their racial backgrounds. But the goals are the same: to develop young people into citizens.

Citizens all have at least one thing in common: no matter what nation they come from, sooner or later they gather to ask one another, “What should we do?” The Kettering Foundation has long researched what comes after that question: how people overcome differences to deliberate together and make good decisions.

Inevitably, sometimes are more turbulent and challenging than others. That’s the situation those from Brazil say they face.

Widespread protests over economic and political upheaval pose a special challenge to teachers in Brazil. “Democracy seems shaken due to recent events,” said Telma Gimenez, who also stated that even wearing certain colors of clothing can be interpreted as a political act, revealing allegiances for or against the government. “People are fighting. The question is, how can schools go against the current atmosphere to reach students? We help teachers take advantage of the educational moment.

For Gimenez, that means convening deliberative forums using issue guides on topics like bullying not only to explore the nuances of the issue, but also to allow students to relate their own personal experiences. “We use [the forums and guides] to show the complexities and get away from the confrontational aspects of an issue.”

“Brazil became a democracy in the mid-1980s after a dictatorship lasting decades,” said Andreia Lisboa De Sousa, who works with youth at the Steve Biko Institute. “We forget that; the political culture is not very new.” The Biko Institute has worked for 22 years to teach the skills needed for citizenship to black and native students. Approximately 6,000 students have attended the Citizenship and Black Consciousness course at the institute. Others have undergone leadership training there. “Brazil is seen as a model of racial democracy, but when you see the material conditions of these people, we don’t have equality,” she said.

Stefanie Olbrys, a social studies teacher in the Windsor Central School District outside of Binghamton, New York, said that when she was a student, she did not view her voice as an instrument for change. Now that she is an educator, she is determined to give her students a different experience. “Every day, I began to say to my students, ‘What do you think?’” In her classes, the students began to deliberate every day and became so engaged in learning that their marks improved and they began to hand in assignments more consistently. Other teachers and administrators also noticed the changes. Now, many more teachers in her school district are using deliberation in their classrooms. “Our state education department sees this as valuable and wants teachers to do this all over the state,” Olbrys said. “It will help students become life-long learners.” One state education department official visited her classroom and asked one of her students, “What are you learning?” The student replied, “I’m learning how to be a leader.”

This is just an excerpt, you can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

About Kettering Foundation and Connections
KF_LogoThe Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of cooperative research. Kettering’s primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Kettering’s research is distinctive because it is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.

Each issue of this annual newsletter focuses on a particular area of Kettering’s research. The 2016 issue of Connections, edited by KF program officer and senior writer/editor Melinda Gilmore; KF senior associate Philip Stewart; and KF vice president, secretary, and general counsel Maxine Thomas, focuses on our year-long review of our multinational research.

Follow on Twitter: @KetteringFdn

Resource Link: www.kettering.org/sites/default/files/periodical-article/Casey-Connections-2016.pdf

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