Archive for the ‘deliberate’ Category

In an earlier post, I proposed that the upcoming AmericaSpeaks Town Meeting on the federal debt in Dallas on June 26 was a chance to facilitate a part of history. I can now report that it will be even easier to participate than I earlier reported. Some of you have expressed an interest, but the mandatory on-site training in Dallas on Friday afternoon before our big Saturday event was almost a deal breaker.

Well, good news!

We have the good fortune of living in just the right time zone which means that Dallas facilitators can get their dose of on-site training on June 26, the day of the event at 8:30 a.m.! Of course, that makes for a very early wake-up call for the Austinites who volunteer, but if you leave comments here looking for shared ride opportunities, you can alternate driving and sleeping on the way.

Here is a complete list of the training times. There are three sessions and each session has a couple of options to make it easy on your schedule. All session are conducted via telephone and all times below are in CENTRAL.

Session 1: Telephone (Choose ONE of the following)

  • Sun, June 13, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR
  • Mon, June 14, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR
  • Tue, June 15, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR

Session 2: Telephone (Choose ONE of the following)

  • Sun, June 20,  5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR
  • Mon, June 21, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR
  • Tue, June 22, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR

Session 3 Conducted on-site at the Dallas Convention Center (Choose ONE of the following)

  • Fri, June 25, 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. OR
  • Sat, June 26, 8:30 a.m.

I’m still working on securing host housing in Dallas if you’re interested in coming in on Friday. It will make for a much more relaxing experience, but I wanted you to know that there are options for the early birds.

If you want to be a facilitator, you must apply here.

Participants can register here.

BTW, check out the Facebook event page for more info and tidbits related to the Dallas experience (again, you can register on the Facebook page, but this is NOT the same as registering for the event! To make life even more confusing, we have a Dallas newsletter. Sign up for our Dallas Newsletter updates.

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[This was posted from the Kettering Foundation meeting on September 20-21, 2007 with 12 sites working on the project, “Too Many Children Left Behind”. For more information about the project visit the Project Home Page.]

  • A different approach to fundraising
  • People to be invested who aren’t currently participating
  • Accurate understanding of what it is and implications
  • Change the culture of how education is valued
  • Kids don’t know about the achievement gaps. How do we make this relevant to them?
  • Encourage the voices of the youth in dealing with the issue
  • Understanding of what the community can do to impact
  • Tangible action
  • Engage the community to hold elected officials accountable
  • All citizens to feel responsible for all kids
  • Parents to become empowered to reach other parents
  • Engage the unusual suspects, business, retired, those not in it
  • Achievement gap language move from abstract to relevant to students, individuals
  • People feel motivated to act
  • Bring us insights about difficult challenges – race and poverty
  • Deal with impact on all students and outcomes for the community connected to that
  • All sectors of the community might understand rights and responsibilities connected to the gap
  • Affect the way universities teach teachers to teach
  • Structures and policies to achieve gap to be impmlemented
  • Understand impact on future workforce, students understand the saem thing, teachers, parent
  • Common ground – people getting on the same page, getting through difficult issues to do things
  • Policy-maker, teachers, media to stop blaming the children for not reaching potential
  • A public will to create union contracts that support eliminating the achievement gap
  • A conversation that doesn’t include blame anymore, a commitment
  • Outrage
  • Testing has to be viewed differently because it causes kids to shut down

Reaction to the list:

I don’t think alot of us as adults realize twhat power we have so our kids don’t understand what power they have. We never question the underlying factors behind policy decisions. Our kids don’t question. They don’t have anyone to teach them to speak up!

The Achievement Gap is a complex issues which suggests that there is no single answer and that it needs multiple actors.

Nobody used the term “no child left behind” which is legislation that should be kicked out of the door because it doesn’t measure real learning. Teachers are teaching to the test.

[Group is anxious to move into the forum. It’s a good thing we moved the forum up to the afternoon time slot because it would be painful for them to sit here and NOT talk about the issue.]

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[This was posted from the Kettering Foundation meeting on September 20-21, 2007 with 12 sites working on the project, “Too Many Children Left Behind”. For more information about the project visit the Project Home Page.]

San Francisco and Central Texas

San Francisco: New partners in this effort, coming together to partner bringing together their skill sets. Looking at small schools for equity design.

Central Texas: Partnership with E3 Alliance and the school superintendent convening forums in six communities in Central Texas in partnership with E3, Austin Voices and Texas Forums.

Minneapolis and Illinois

Minneapolis: Cutting across the various sectors in the community to address education and bring life to connecting learning in the classroom to what happens in real life. Put young people in jobs with real businesses where they can apply skills and learn from people on the job. Helping students recognize that they need to have a life plan so that kids know that education is important. Strong skills: how to mobilize the business community.

Illinois: One partner has worked on truancy issues in Nigeria where kids can leave school and earn more or get married early. These are key issues in this country – kids having a short term perspective being lured into money-making endeavors, and teen pregnancy. The other partner has strong community organizing skills with is a common skill between the two sites. In the community of Boling Brook, the community is growing rapidly and is very diverse, but does not have the divided pockets where racial groups clustered. Even local politics is fairly tame. But reaching across organizations has not been done.

Corpus Christi, Helena, AR and Cincinnati

Helena, AR: working at a very grassroots level on the issue of poverty which is interesting because often conversations around AG focus on whether it is an issue of race or poverty and we know that it is both.

Corpus Christi: Represented by an LEF program working with all grades. A smaller organization started in response to the high number of drop-out students. Focus on grassroots inclusion. Organization has been around since 2003.

Cincinnati: KnowledgeWorks Foundation has researched and studied where education is going, the impact of technology. The community is involved in a project called, Stride that is looking at community engagement and involving people in conversations about education with the hope to institionalize engagement. Over-the-Rhine is the community that was featured in Traffic. Work with Community Learning Centers. UC CAT is working to support students at the university in Cincinnati to help.

D.C. and Panama City

(This group created their own introduction system which led to jokes about their not following directions. It was a fun and light moment.)

Panama City: One person is representing her own interest as a parent and her organization, working with youth to understand, using a participatory action research model. Another member of the team is a high school teacher with interest in communication – reading, writing, consulting, community organizer. Worked for one year on a community organizing project which requires patience and listening.

D.C.: Being the parent of a two-year old child is motivating. Applying legal background and political interest as Director of DC Voice. Another participant is an advocate responsible for research, learning for the Public Education Network. As the oldest of seven children, she said she has never had patience and doesn’t believe in democracy…(laughter!)

This form of introduction got people up out of their chair after lunch, the hardest time to keep people engaged especially after a wonderful pasta lunch! It also surfaced the knowledge and expertise in the room which will give the facilitators the opportunity to get out of the way and let the wisdom of the group emerge.

New Orleans and Bridgeport, CT participants were not in this session of our meeting.

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[This was posted from the Kettering Foundation meeting on September 20-21, 2007 with 12 sites working on the project, “Too Many Children Left Behind”. For more information about the project visit the Project Home Page.]

We are just launching into two days of meeting at the Kettering Foundation Achievement Gaps. Twelve communities – six representing National Issues Forums strongholds, and six representing Local Education Fund (LEF) sites. LEFs are community-based groups that support schools – advocacy, information, convene citizens, workshops for parents – but are not part school system.

So why are we gathered together and why are we talking about how to engage the public in a conversation about the Achievement Gap? Here’s Carolyn Farrow-Garland’s explanation:

Even after years of research and burgeoning bookcases of reports from researchers, but scant involvement from people in the community. And yet, there is evidence that this kind of involvement is important. Carolyn told a thought-provoking story about a woman in a county where no single African-American child had passed the test. She convened these children in order to better understand why. When she talked with these children, she was surprised to learn that they had never heard of the achievement gap. They didn’t know that they had not passed the test. They said that, if they had known that they were expected to be doing better.

In Kettering’s research to frame this issue, Charles Houser conducted focus groups with hundreds of people engaged. During those focus groups, only one person really understood and was able to talk about the achievement gap. This is alarming given the size of this challenge and the dire consequences of not addressing this issue – to our economy, to the quality of life for those who are falling behind.

The research agenda for this group of people is to answer these questions:

  • When communities have a dialogue about this issue, how do they rename it?
  • How do they use this as a basis for addressing this problem?
  • Once they have renamed it, what are they willing to do about it?

Participants are now in community pairs (LEF with NIF) introducing themselves and responding to these questions. Now off to hear the intro…

  • What expertise do you share?
  • What might you be able to learn from each other?

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It would be interesting if they said something we hadn’t heard. Barack makes a joke about “No Child Left Behind” and talks about the money left behind but doesn’t get a big response here. Bonnie observes that most of the people here are taking it all blandly and no one is getting up and cheering. That’s the plight of this kind of crowd.

And Dennis Kucinich can get cheers from the crowd at the forum but little response from these folks. Mike Gravel has the freedom to talk truth because nobody takes him seriously.

So let’s talk about this event, as Yours Unruly plans to jet, and what the overview should be: the crowd should have been larger certainly, there should have been more journalists here to get the opinions of the average person – most of whose concerns are really about the economy, health care and having a government that isn’t riddled with corruption. I heard that tonight, walking from one table to another. I watched the people sitting here, Black, Asian, Latino and White and most them – as mentioned – had no idea about the “Covenant” but had serious ideas about what they wanted for this country. Many of them expressed their desire for common ground. This Blogger was happy to hear that.

At the same time, as a long-time journalist, I would rather have attended an event where more of the people got to speak instead of watch, an event where there was involvement and interaction instead of observation. Passivity is not what is needed now. Action is what is needed now.

The next stage of politics is involving the polity.

This was certainly worth doing but more is needed, more conversation.

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Tavis’s show at PBS is now begining and it’s talking about the “Covenant with Black America.” The G21 team here, Allaina and I are Blogging on the event. It turns our that Yours Unruly is a celeb because I’m the only working journalist at the event. I was interviewed by a reporter from the University of Texas newspaper, The Daily Texan, therefore and a couple of people wanted to know about my writing at Slashdot.org.

So now we get into Tavis’s night, the All-America Forum.

The candidates are talking and Hillary gets first crack. Very prepared, as usual, after all she has the best teacher in politics around living with her in New York. Joe Biden comes up next but we all know nobody is taking him seriously. (Hate to be snarky but I know this game, as I said earlier.) Man, I hate to feel like a writer from Wonkette, but I’d love to have a shot right now. I’d like to make a shot game: have a shot when any candidate brings up the word “race.” Let’s face it, since Smiley is running this show, you could have one heck of a party. Snored through Bill Richardson and now I’m listening to “Smiling John” Edwards. In one ear. Now Barack is talking. This should be his shining hour.

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28 June 2007: This evening I’m reporting from the LBJ Library at the University of Texas (UT) on Tavis Smiley’s Public Broadcasting System (PBS) forum with the candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States. Like many other Bloggers here tonight, I’m suppose to be an ear to what our community thinks about the pols and their policies. The difference, at least for me, from some of the other Bloggers is that I’m a working journalist and a former political hack. I know this game. So I’ll try to share with you what is meant by what is being said, instead of being a parrot.

In the process, I’ve brought along a few friends, included my Gen Y Personal Assistant, to look over my shoulder, take some digital photos of this crowd, and correct my impressions when I tend to act like an old curmudgeon.

The citizens at the each table were asked to have a Blogger like me write write about what they think. Live blogging is an interesting exercise in that we, the bloggers, should act as the ears of the people.

What I find interesting is that people at my particular table are talking about Dick Cheney, global corporations and corporate greed – compared to personal sacrifice – and nothing NOTHING about Tavis Smiley’s “Covenant for African-Americans” which is about what this forum was set up to look at. This Reporter walks around to a few of the tables at this meeting to ask if anyone had heard about Smiley’s initiative. Even the few Black people here have ever heard about it.

My Personal Assistant, Bonnie, is snapping people in the crowd right now. We’ll upload them later.

The issue is being brought up that most people didn’t know, in the pre-forum discussion that most of the attendants were ignorant to the fact there was a “Convenant to Black America.” So we have an audience who doesn’t know why they came here. They are learning that during this discussion.

7:47 p.m.: It’s gettting touchy-feely now. People are talking about how the even here in Austin we are becoming a *very* segregated community, all acknowledged. Now we’re going to hear from the Democratic Presidential candidates and Tavis Smiley.

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One of the frequently asked questions about deliberative forums, is:

What role do facts play in the forum? or an even more frequent question:

How can you have an intelligent and worthwhile deliberation unless people learn the facts about the issue?

There is a delicate balance between providing a base level of data that is necessary for the deliberation to be based in some authority, and too much data that overwhelms people or worse yet, becomes an academic exercise. Every moderator whose been at this for a while has stories about the self-appointed expert who comes to the forum with facts – not just facts, but THE facts. And of course, when we hear THE facts and they don’t support our own position, we pull out OUR facts because we’re all armed with the facts that we love – you know, the ones that prove we are right. We gloss over any facts to the contrary.

book coverOnce each side has hurled their favorite facts across the room, the deliberation can easily degenerate into a fact war and it becomes a challenge for the moderator to delicately lead the participants through the fact-filled mine fieldback to the remnants and possibility of common ground.

I’m reading the book, “Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)” by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson and found a passage that supports the idea that we must be diligent in avoiding fact wars in deliberation. Tarvis and Aronson write:

“Most people, when directly confronted by evidence that they are wrong, do not change their point of view or course of action but justify it even more tenaciously. Even irrefutable evidence is rarely enough to pierce the mental armor of self-justficiation.”

In other words, not only does the deliberation degenerate into debate, but the divides become even greater and the possibility of reaching common ground even less likely. The purpose of this book is to understand the inner workings of self-justification. I’m just in the introduction (ok, I cheated, I’ve read ahead, too) but already this looks like an amusing and insightful book with lessons to apply in our civic discourse.

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ag coverTexas Forums will join with E3 Alliance and Austin Voices for Education and Youth to convene community-wide deliberative forums about the Achievement Gap in Education in seven communities across the Central Texas region. These deliberations, involving hundreds of business and community leaders, parents, students, and other stakeholders, will not only form a plan for closing the Achievement Gap in Central Texas, but also create a basis for region-wide consensus on over-arching educational system goals.

This is a critical issue for our state and our nation. The Texas state demographer has determined that there can be a $300B annual benefit by 2040 to the economy of Texas if we can close the gaps to college while continuing to raise expectations.

The seven communities that will participate in these deliberative forums are: Austin, Bastrop, Del Valle, Eanes, Manor, San Marcos, Round Rock. These districts were selected for their diversity and their projected rate of growth.


growth rate

The goals of this project are to:
1. Draft a plan to close achievement gaps across the region and develop the capacity for people within local communities to work together to address the gaps within their own communities.
2. Create a basis for region-wide consensus on over-arching educational system goals.
3. Develop a self-sustaining infrastructure of volunteers in local communities able to bring people together to deliberate and decide how to act together on other community issues.
The objectives of this project are:
To strengthen the capacity for communities to engage in deliberative forums on education policy and possible actions, and to move from individual opinions to sound and reasoned public judgment that supports systemic change.
To collect the hopes and concerns that people express when they consider the costs and consequences of education policies, and provide information that the public, the media, experts and policy-makers can use to make decisions and set policy on education issues.
To identify, based on the deliberative forums, additional opportunities to support communities in planning for and addressing local or regional issues.

About the Forums
The forums will be based on a national guide developed by the Kettering Foundation and distributed by the National Issues Forums network that will be localized using data collected by E3 Alliance.


Each forum will be small (10-15 people) and will be co-moderated by an adult and a student and will be recruited from the current Texas Forums and Austin Voices volunteers and newly-trained community members. Delegates from these forums will participate in a regional meeting to begin developing a plan for closing the gap across the region. While centered on school districts, these forums may be hosted through community groups, higher education partners, or other venues. We anticipate that 60-80 people of various backgrounds will participate in small group forums in each of seven communities, for total regional participation of approximately 500 people. These local forums will culminate in a regional forum attended by at least 10 representatives of each community and approximately 30 “thought leaders”.


As always in these forums, we know that we must take into account all aspects of each of these approaches and craft our own approach rooted in the values and priorities that emerge through deliberating each approach just as this diagram indicates.

The role of Texas Forums is to:
Lead adaptation of discussion materials developed by the Kettering Foundation for local context
Recruit moderators
Lead training for additional moderators to be recruited from each of the seven communities
Assist with orientation for planning teams (Community Champions)
Act as liaison to the Kettering Foundation for national engagement, support, and research tracking

“How Can I Get Involved?” You Must be Asking!
If you would like to participate in this project as a moderator, organizer, supporter (financial or expertise), reporter or any other role I might not have considered, please contact me (Taylor Willingham) or leave a comment here on this blog. If you live in a community that is not in the seven districts we are targeting and would like to hold forums in your district, Texas Forums can provide technical support and online access to the materials we are developing. I’ll be posting updates on this blog. To follow this project, just click on Achievement Gap under the Categories section on the right hand side of this page. Materials that are in development will posted in the Achievement Gap section of the Texas Forums Sandbox and when they are ready for public use, they will be posted on the Texas Forums web site.

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Well I posted a diagram of an NIF framework earlier, but then someone with a good eye for design revised it to this. Much better

new framework

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