An article by Kendal Kloiber, titled titled Fostering Civil Discourse in Schools, appears in the November/December 2022 edition of the PSBA (Pennsylvania School Boards Association) Bulletin and features an interview with educational consultant and former National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) board member Dr. Stacie Molnar-Main.
The following is excerpted from the article:
According to Molnar-Main, there are three main reasons why fostering civil discourse is important in schools. The first is that "pubic schools are founded on a civic mission, to educate citizenry that can, in turn participate in a democracy," she says. Discourse isn't the only form of civic engagement, but it is important in a democracy because it is a common way people learn about and negotiate issues that affect their community. "Civil discourse is needed to support learning and build trust among people living with different life experiences," she adds. "How we frame issues can create space for people to talk about how the issue impacts them personally and to listen to others' experiences..."
...The idea of introducing civil discourse can seem scary, but schools--and students--stand to benefit greatly by incorporating it in and out of the classroom. "Don't be afraid. We're in what feels like a very polarized moment historically in our nation," Molnar-Main says. "It can feel scary for schools to consider dipping their toe in the water; however, what we've seen is that when institutions lean in to becoming focused on civil discourse and their civic mission, the payoff is great."