Learn About Election-Year Issues with Our Discussion Guides

This election, light on the issues and heavy on hyperbole, has not helped our collective civic education and dialogue. Many would argue it’s even been harmful or poisonous.

But if we hope to find common ground on and address our trickiest problems, we must educate ourselves on the issues and have civil dialogue, even with those we don’t see eye-to-eye with.

Last week, we at Public Agenda invited you to participate in #TextTalk2016, our election-season effort to generate better in-person conversations. This week, we want to share some resources to help you both learn about and engage civilly on topics ranging from climate change to the teaching profession to immigration. These resources are all what we call Choicework discussion guides.

The Choicework technique enables people to transcend ideology and partisanship, cultivates empathy and helps people move away from wishful thinking to weigh the pros and cons of policy approaches.

You can be the start of a better, more civil conversation! Download and read the below guides, learn about the issues, share them with friends, family and colleagues, and use them to spark a conversation in person or on social media.

How Can We Ensure That All Children Have Excellent Teachers?

Immigration: A Citizens’ Solutions Guide

Facing the Challenges of Climate Change: A Guide for Citizen Thought and Action

Same World, Different Worldviews: How can evangelical Christians and scientists minimize conflict and improve relations?

How Can We Reduce our Health Care Spending and Still Get High Quality Care?

The premise of Choicework is basic: When people are presented with three or four concrete, real-world approaches to a problem, they have an easier time grounding the discussion as they explore the pros and cons of different paths forward. In using such an approach, a few things commonly happen among discussion participants:

  • They come to accept that there are no easy answers. Tough problems will require considerable thought and possibly a measure of compromise.
  • They begin to empathize with those who hold opposite views. Even if they will never embrace those views themselves, they understand why opponents think the way they do.
  • They realize their own preferred approaches often have trade-offs they may not have acknowledged before.
  • They overcome denial and wishful thinking and gain a clear sense of what’s worth compromising on and what isn’t.

The Choicework methodology was developed by Public Agenda and the Kettering Foundation and based on theory and research from the social scientist Daniel Yankelovich.