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New Perspectives: Deep Understanding Through Deliberation

Street Law, Inc.

Over 40 years of educating about law, democracy, and human rights

New Perspectives: Deep Understanding Through Deliberation

Are you a teacher searching for ways to help your students grapple with controversial public issues? Are you looking for materials and strategies to help bring students together across their differences?

Street Law is proud to announce the 2018-19 New Perspectives Teaching Fellowship. Twenty-five teachers from the Omaha, NE, Denver, CO, and Washington, DC, metropolitan areas will be awarded this fellowship to master the use of deliberative discussion to build positive relationships across differences.

Teachers report that their communities and classrooms feel divisive and polarized, and that students (and adults) struggle to talk and listen to one another. Teachers tell us that many students often seem unwilling to give other perspectives the benefit of the doubt. Our aim is to help people with different beliefs and backgrounds converse with one another, about important issues, in a civil and productive way.  With financial support from the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, we are launching a program to address these challenges.

Street Law believes in the power of deliberation—a highly structured discussion method—to build political tolerance and empathy. Deliberation teaches people how to discuss controversial issues by carefully considering multiple perspectives and searching for consensus. In preparation for deliberations, all participants read common, balanced background information on the issue. During the discourse, they offer arguments for each position on a contested public issue, first drawing from the text and then bringing in their own experiences. Deliberations can be conducted in a single class period or stretch over multiple days. Through this project, deliberations will also feature strategies to build empathy among participants.

The New Perspective Teaching Fellows will join Street Law staff and experts for a three-day, collaborative workshop to learn and practice the deliberation method, explore empathy-building activities, and plan to conduct deliberations with their students and with members of their communities. Fellows will then lead four deliberations with students during the 2018-19 school year. Two of those four deliberations will include adult members of the wider community, deliberating with and alongside students. Those two community-inclusive deliberations are intended to bring cross-generational perspectives together, and could happen during or after the school day. Teaching Fellows will be supported throughout this process by Street Law staff, a local coordinator, and one another. Street Law will provide classroom-ready teaching materials for at least eight current, controversial topics. The topics will be selected with local input and advice, but may include juvenile justice, immigration, free speech, religious freedom, and more.

The one-year fellowship includes:

  • Tuition and travel-expense-paid participation in a collaborative Training Institute in Silver Spring, MD (just outside Washington, DC), July 17-19, 2018. (Worth more than $1800)
  • A $500 stipend
  • 25 contact hours of professional development (Street Law will support requests for professional learning credits with your school or district)
  • Access to Street Law’s deliberation curriculum and materials

Teachers who are awarded this fellowship commit to:

  • Attending the Training Institute from July 17-19, 2018 (travel expenses paid by Street Law)
  • Leading four deliberations with students in 2018-19
  • Involving adult members of the wider community in two of those deliberations
  • Participating in program evaluation activities

This opportunity is open to any secondary (middle or high school) teachers in the Omaha, NE, Denver, CO, or Washington, DC, (including Virginia and Maryland) metropolitan areas. Deliberation of controversial issues fits well into courses in many subject areas, particularly social studies and English/Language Arts. Fellows must teach in a school that serves a racially, ethnically, or socioeconomically diverse population.

Apply here. Applications are due April 9. Questions about this opportunity? Contact Jen Wheeler.

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Teaching for Civic Engagement