by Marsha Rakestraw

A peek at the news, a look at social media posts and comments, or an overheard conversation at the local café tells us that civility seems to be plummeting.

While most of us are hardwired to be empathic, compassionate communication and civil discourse are skills that have to be learned (and taught).

Recently a New York Times story offered tips for bringing civil discussions to classroom conversations about challenging global ethical issues.

Here’s the list:

  1. Create classroom rules and structures that support respectful and generative discussion, online and off.
  2. Take the “Speak Up for Civility” pledge from Teaching Tolerance.
  3. Read and discuss articles that explore the problem of a divided America.
  4. Consider commenting standards.
  5. Practice empathy.
  6. Back up statements with evidence and sources.
  7. Listen better, and ask genuine questions that seek to help you understand, rather than judge.
  8. Expand your ‘filter bubble.”
  9.  Consider why “us and them” is so ingrained in who we are.
  10. Learn about and try to counter “confirmation bias.”

Read the complete article.

Especially when we humans find ourselves at odds on so many issues, it’s essential to cultivate our skills of civil discussion and to teach the next generations those vital skills.

For more tips and discussion about how to talk about “controversial” issues with students, see our curated collection of resources on Pinterest.