THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR CIVIC DISCOURSE
"An answer is always the part of the road that is behind you. Only questions point to the future."- Jostein Gaarder
The foundation of the democratic process is the ability and willingness of civic leaders and ordinary citizens to utilize civic discourse as a means to find common ground and broadly based effective solutions. Unfortunately, our society seems to be moving away from that bedrock. We believe, however, that debate communities led by engaged youth and inspired educators can recapture the “public commons” as a place for civic discourse rather than pursuit of partisan and personal victories.
Anchored by NYU President John Sexton, the National Campaign for Civic Discourse brings together organizations, corporations, foundations, school systems and individuals working to spur civic engagement, public debate, and reasoned discourse in our schools, religious institutions and in the larger society. Initially, the Campaign will focus on student involvement in schools and communities. A recent study noted that 89% of people between the ages of 15-25 are totally uninvolved in electoral or civic activities. Communication is a powerful antidote to violence and apathy. Sarah Pearson of the American Youth Policy Forum notes “If we want safe and stable communities and caring and responsible neighbors for tomorrow, we’ve got to plan today to provide opportunities to combine academics with civic involvement...”
The Campaign heralds a new generation of responsible citizens anxious to join in discussing and debating the issues of the day. Already, the Campaign has developed partnerships with outstanding programs in cities across the country including Seattle, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Louisville, Miami and Providence. In every place, there are those who recognize that without discourse, we lose the essence of education and democracy: the power of free expression. The National Campaign for Civic Discourse works to:
ENCOURAGE LEADERS TO MODEL CIVIC DISCOURSE
Community-based organizations, national agencies and universities sign on to the campaign to stress the importance of discourse over discord. They find common areas of their work that promote positive communication, youth voice and the settling of differences through earnest dialogue.
SPONSOR DISCUSSION SERIES
Local partners, like the Jersey Urban Debate League (photo below), co-sponsor debate and discussion series organized around a topic of local controversy and concern. These events can galvanize neighborhoods, raise awareness in vulnerable communities and return interest in the public square as a method to bring about change.
SPUR CIVIC INVOLVEMENT
While responsible citizens must model the use of civic discourse, they must also know that citizenship means taking responsibility for advancing talk into effective action. Debaters have appeared before federal, state and local government officials. They collaborate with local partners to produce television shows, radio programs and outreach initiatives. Seattle's program partners with rappers and communityb activists to create hip hop debate curriculum that connect youth with opportunities to discover their voice. Listen to their recent Public Service Announcement.
ALOUD facilitates student involvement in topic-related agencies and through government partners that connect what we say with what we do in powerful, memorable ways.
HOST CANDIDATE FORUMS
Partners can invite candidates for local, state and national office to partake in debates that harken back to the original intent of candidate debates instead of partisan bickering or meaningless soundbites. Students can also participate in mock debates where they learn more about the issues and share their perspectives as a way to introduce classmates to the issues facing the country.
Join the campaign and help transform America’s conversation.