Monday, December 5, 2016

Civil Discourse at MPH

Word cloud based on US students expectations for Civil Discourse

After a bitter and divisive election season, filled with inflammatory speech, misinformation, and personal attacks, we felt that it was important for our community to reaffirm the possibility of civil discourse. Our school is a space where tough political, social and environmental issues can be discussed in a respectful manner, where individuals listen to each other, and where differences of identity and opinion are valued.

A group of student leaders from Student Council, National Honor Society, Gay Straight Alliance and Mentors for Violence Prevention synthesized their classmates' feelings on civil discourse in the following declaration, based on MPH's Five Cs (concern, confidence, consideration, cooperation, courtesy), which will be included in the Palladium for future generations of MPH students:

The MPH Declaration on Civil Discourse 

Dialogue: We seek to grow our understanding through conversation, and sincerely consider what other people are saying, recognizing that there are no winners or losers;
Compromise : We recognize that we must sacrifice some of our wants to reach harmony;

- Respect : We value other people and their perspectives, and respect others’ boundaries and emotions; - Inclusion : We welcome other people’s, perspectives, and opinions into conversation, and allow others to exit the conversation or observe;

- Openness : We are comfortable expressing our opinions and emotions, and participating in conversation to whichever degree that we choose;
- Freedom: We recall our right to “freedom of speech” as promised under the Bill of Rights;

- Self-Awareness : We remember that our actions, beliefs, and the way we conduct ourselves in conversation can either help solve problems or make them worse;
- Disengagement : We end the conversation if it becomes unproductive or counterproductive;

- Appropriate Communication : We use appropriate tones, and respectful verbal and body language;
- Appropriate Settings : We find appropriate times and places for conversation;

- Empathy : We try to understand why people hold their specific beliefs, and why they may react emotionally in certain situations;
- Objectivity : We seek out facts and challenge falsehoods;
- Open-Mindedness : We try to challenge our own opinions and perspectives, and we aren’t afraid to change our minds.