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Ideas at Work: Repairing Our Social Fabric

Organizer: Center for the Study of Liberty

The Center for the Study of Liberty is delighted to bring you a LIVE online conversation with John Wood, Jr. and April Lawson of Better Angels. Better Angels is a national citizens' movement to reduce political polarization. By bringing "reds" and "blues" all across the country together in workshops, debates, and community alliances, they aim to teach practical skills and strategies for communicating across political differences. Yet their vision extends far beyond getting us all through the 2020 election. The leaders of this movement are asking questions like:

  • "Can we change the trajectory of our civic culture?"
  • "Can we repair our torn social fabric?"

John and April will share their insights about the "unmooring" that took place in 2016, the influence of college campuses on our national dialogue, the importance of rebuilding our "emotional economy," and much more.

Location: Webinar

Better Angels Debate: Democratic Reforms

Organizer: Better Angels

The goal of a Better Angels Debate is not to "win" the argument. Rather, it is a highly structured conversation in which a group of people listen carefully and meaningfully engage with each other's ideas on a difficult issue. If successful, everyone walks away a little closer to the truth, more aware of the validity in opposing views, and with a tighter community of friendships from across the political spectrum.

Location: OpenGov Hub, 1110 Vermont Ave NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC

Big Picture
Photo courtesy James Coan

James Coan has embraced his new calling while continuing his career as a business consultant.

Meet the reformer: James Coan, professional depolarizer

James D. Coan is co-director of the Media Initiative for Better Angels, a national organization dedicated to reducing political polarization by convening liberals and conservatives in a variety of settings and preaching the virtues of civility and cross-party alliances. A D.C.-area native, he started his career at a Rice University think tank before spending seven years as a strategy consultant, mainly for private-sector energy clients. Starting around the 2016 election he has established himself as one of the country's few depolarization strategists. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What's the tweet-length description of your organization?

Better Angels is building a house united to save our republic. We will overcome polarization. We help Americans see what we share and what can keep America together, both in small workshops and through mass media.

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The Civic Circle's seven steps are as relevant to adults as to kids, and also to the movement to revive democracy, writes Carney.

What a new civics course for kids can teach adults about bettering democracy

Carney is founder of The Civic Circle, a civics education nonprofit, and writes the Democracy Rules column for The American Prospect.

Civic education is back, and not for the first time. In recent decades, policy makers, educators and democracy advocates have launched one initiative after another with promises to finally make American government relevant and compelling to students.

Mostly, these have failed. We've had commissions, studies, federal funding. We've had debates over whether kids should learn the three branches of government and the Bill of Rights, or learn how to mobilize for equity and social justice. Nothing, it seems, has worked. Adults and kids alike remain appallingly ignorant of the most basic facts about American democracy, from which rights the First Amendment protects to the three branches of government.

Part of the problem is that textbooks and curriculum materials tend to overemphasize things like the granular details of the War of 1812, while ignoring more compelling questions like: What is democracy? How can you make it work for you? Existing civic instruction also tends to focus almost exclusively on middle and upper schoolers. This misses a key window during elementary school, when kids are forming their views of what's fair, where they fit in and what it takes to get along with others.

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