Reading Group: Political Dialogue in Polarizing Times – Election 2016

“With an open heart, we can learn to stand in each other’s shoes, and see through each other’s eyes. . . . we can embark on the hard work of negotiation, and reconciliation . . . we can worry less about which side has been wronged, and worry more about joining sides to do right.”

~President Barack Obama, July 12, 2016, Dallas, Texas


Despite the encouragement from U.S. President Barack Obama above, commentators, scholars, and casual observers alike have been calling the 2016 Presidential election one of the most polarizing and divisive in recent memory. Genuine dialogue between those with differing and competing views on contentious political issues is in decline in both public and private spaces. In place of civil dialogue, conflicts seem to escalate through use of social media on Twitter, Facebook, and anonymous blogging that is often demonizing and dehumanizing. This reading group will provide participants with an opportunity to explore the possibilities, benefits, and limits of sustained, civil dialogue on the most contentious political issues of the day. We will also explore some of the reasons for the decline of civil conversation in contemporary American life.

Meetings of the Reading Group will be devoted to reading and discussion on the purposes, shape, form, methods, limits, and critiques of political dialogue. In addition, there will be four optional sessions devoted to providing participants a chance to engage in challenging, political dialogue on issues related to the 2016 Presidential election. These issues may include U.S. immigration policy, race & criminal justice reform, gun control, the Supreme Court, and U.S. counterterrorism policy at home and abroad. The elective sessions on political dialogue will be facilitated by students enrolled in The Lawyer as Facilitator Workshop.

Though there are no pre-requisites required for this Reading Group beside a willingness to engage openly and bravely with classmates on political issues that may touch on identity, emotions, perceptions, privilege, and perception, attendance at all sessions will be required.

This reading group is by permission only. The deadline for applications is Friday, August 19 at noon. Students will be informed about the status of their application by the end of business on Wednesday, August 24, 2016 . Please follow this link to submit an application.

Class sessions will meet at the following times:

September 22:      1:00 – 3:00 pm
October 6:             1:00 – 3:00 pm
October 13:           1:00 – 3:00 pm
October 27:           1:00 – 3:00 pm
November 10:       1:00 – 3:00 pm
November 17:       1:00 – 3:00 pm


1 classroom credit

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