At this point in the ongoing democratic experiments in the United States and around the world, two things have become exceedingly clear: democracy requires high-quality communication, and we do not get close to the necessary quality naturally.
ChatGPT and its successors and rivals, whatever their virtues, are the latest agents in the corruption of the public sphere by digital technology, threatening to extend and deepen the misinformation, fabulism, and division stoked by Twitter and other digital media.
Processes like climate assemblies provide one way to build a democracy where more people have a stake in the decisions we all take about our future.
Think of it as a garden: you start with the soil, preparing it for seeding, and you work with the grassroots, cultivating a crop and nurturing it carefully over time. Democracy is more like an annual crop than a perennial one; it needs to be refreshed periodically. It won’t keep thriving if it’s left alone.
In addition to fostering communication and thinking skills, deliberation can lead to changes in how young people engage as learners and citizens.
All of the participating teachers agreed that their understanding of citizenship changed from one that emphasized following rules and helping others to one that fostered student engagement in making decisions together about shared problems in the classroom community and beyond.
Citizens’ Councils can also be part of a broader range of processes used within a given region to support a larger “deliberative system.”
Despite their differences, the intense time pressure, and being continuously filmed by a crew from Canadian TV (for an hour-long public affairs program) these ordinary citizens by the end of their third day had all signed a detailed, co-created, visionary agreement charting a course to greater mutual understanding by all Canadians.
The good news is that when place-based wisdom informs local solutions, the solutions are all the more sustainable.
In Teaching History for the Common Good, Keith C. Barton and Linda S. Levstik recognize that the past can be used “in a variety of ways, and for a variety of purposes.” One of these is to use history’s “potential to prepare students for participation in a pluralist democracy.”
Through deliberative pedagogy, students are prepared to participate in solving problems important to them and their communities.
The literal heart of Dixie (the U.S. Deep South) is the very last place one might expect to see a community rallying around the idea of acceptance and inclusivity—especially if the community is a small town in Alabama declaring itself a safe, nurturing, and inviting space for LGBTQ+ individuals.