I encourage my students' civic voice through the Touchstones Discussion Program

#CivicVoices @touchpebbles discuss. prog. builds confidence and competence in civil discussion and deep learning in all areas.

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@TeachersGuild i encourage Ss Civ. voices by coaching Speech and Debate. Also, 20 + yrs w/ Touchstones disc. Prog. #civicvoices

— Garreth Heidt (@Ed_by_design) September 13, 2016

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[Optional] Synthesize a little! What's one take away or insight to leave people with?

Confidence in public discussions=confidence in civic roles

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One last build up of this process: 

Touchstones discussions to promote civil discussion and civic engagement outside the classroom or as a leader within his or her community?

I have two responses. The first is that I also use Touchstones in the classes I teach for a local teachers’ college. Exposing teachers to the program not only for the program itself but as a way to expose teachers to the wider concept of how discussion can be mediated and used as a teaching method, technique for prewriting, and as an alternative to the “win-lose” competitive nature of debates helps me to speak to the civic goal of education. Few teacher recall that there are at least three specific goals of public education in America: the personal goal (help each child realize and utilize their talents for their own as well as community benefit), the economic goal (a thriving economy propels the capitalist democracy to higher levels of achievement and discovery), and the civic goal (in a democracy, when civil discussion breaks down, when Jerry Springer and “Soledad and Sununu” are the only models we have of civil discussion, we are doomed to follow the lesser angels of our nature and the democracy will fail in a more or less Hobbesian fashion). I take these goals seriously, and there’s only one program that I use “straight out of the box” that helps me meet the civic and personal goals at the depth I desire, and that is the Touchstones Discussion Project.

But let me state as well that I’d not be a teacher if I were not also constantly learning and bettering myself. My students, our experiences in class everyday…they lead me to ever-greater levels of enlightenment. For example, Touchstones has taught me to listen, to understand that the boy I was, the one who used to jump at every chance to offer an answer and who still goads me to voice my opinion on most everything…that boy didn’t have to be in charge, if only I would sit and listen. Because Touchstones is more about listening than it is about talking (at least it should be) for the students and the teacher, I have become a keen listener (modeling my patience and attention on a particularly sagacious member of my local Phi Beta Kappa chapter) and it has made me a better person. My colleagues recognize that skill set and have “rewarded me” with a 10-year-long position as our union spokesperson. Though I have recently resigned this position, I am keenly aware that my ability to address issues calmly, to listen and respond to community concerns in a reasoned and mannered way . . . these are largely based on what Touchstones has taught me about listening before responding. In that way, Touchstones is a very mindful practice. And mindfulness is something truly needed if we seek and healthy and successful democracy.

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