Archive for the ‘Democracy’s Challenge’ Category

On November 4, twenty-five students, faculty, and administrators at St. Edward’s University (SEU) participated in a deliberative forum on Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role. Organized by the SEU New College, the university’s program for working adults, the goal of the forum was to explore different ways that students can learn and practice their roles as citizens.

During the two and a half hour forum, participants explored the role of higher education in helping students to recognize their own unique contribution to our democracy and discussed ways to inspire them to become engaged citizens. Using a discussion guide prepared by the National Issues Forums Institute, participants considered three perspectives of what it would take to reclaim the public’s role in democracy.

Even though participants agreed the the university needs to provide students with opportunities for citizen engagement, the group recognized various barriers within educational institutions and within society that can prevent people from participating fully.

The lack of trust in government, the disconnect people feel with the process, the inability to talk about tough issues without polarizing around the differences, the loss of our public spaces used for public deliberation – all of these items were explored with a spirit of curiosity and respect. One of the most compelling ideas to come out of the discussion was an awareness that civic engagement in the future might look very different than what it has looked like in the past.

While it wasn’t immediately clear how dialogue and deliberation could be used more fully on campus, there seemed to be agreement that the skills would be important for SEU graduates, and that students could use these skills out in the community as they talk about issues that matter to them. New College is also considering whether or not to use this process in their required mission courses that every student takes upon entering New College. The university has already scheduled a follow up to the forum, which will be a two day Moderator Training on Jan. 8-9 on the St. Edward’s campus.

Following the event, Vicki Totten, who helped organize the event for New College faculty and students, said

I am excited about the potential of using dialogue and deliberation to help students talk about difficult issues in the classroom.

She added that deliberation might be an important foundation for any student, since in order to work on difficult issues, it is important to be able to know how to move a discussion from a debate toward true dialogue.

Another important aspect of the deliberative model is that it emphasizes the need to understand the important role that values play in forming our perspectives, an important hallmark of a St. Edward’s education.

This forum, a project of the LBJ Presidential Library was one of dozens of forums being held by all twelve presidential libraries across the country, and made possible with funding from the National Archives and Records Administration and the National Issues Forums.

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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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I’ve discovered a cool tool for embedding comments and links that allow you to jump to a particular place in a podcast. This is one way to create a discussion about pieces in a podcast or to quickly find specific references within a podcast.

If I’ve done this right, this link will take you to a podcast interview with Diane Miller from last year. I’ve broken the podcast down by the questions she was asked so that people could add their own responses via text. Cross your fingers that this works! Eventually I’ll get Elaine to show me how to embed the player along with a link!

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Cole Campbell, dean of the Donald W. Reynolds Schools of Journalism at the University of Nevada, research associate for the Kettering Foundation, and friend died last Friday when his car flipped on an icy road.

The world not only lost a champion for public journalism. We lost a great man and a dear friend.

I can’t top the tribute published in the NY Times where notable journalists and writers honored Cole, but I can say a hearty “amen” to those who described Cole as “an unwavering proponent of civic journalism that could help people exercise their civic duties”, a “towering intellectual among newspaper editors, astonishingly well read and curious about all ideas…[who] never met an innovative idea that he didn’t want to try out,” and “a very deep philosophical thinker, but also a man who was extremely interested in whether the community he newspapered in was a successful, vigorous polity.”

I first knew about Cole and his work in public journalism in the mid-90’s when he was the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and he hired a mutual friend to launch an online version of the newspaper that would include – gasp – an opportunity for people to add comments and exchange ideas online. It was less than ten years ago, but in the world of technology, it was several generations ago. There wasn’t a roadmap for online public engagement. There was no YouTube or MySpace. But I’d like to think that (like Cole) I “never met an idea that I didn’t want to try out” so I was thrilled when the Post-Dispatch hired me to develop a discussion guide on literacy. I never worked directly with Cole on that project, but I knew that he was on to something important and exciting, and it was an honor to be part of the experiment. I was deeply disappointed when – as the NY Times delicately noted – Cole encountered resistance to his ideas and left the Post-Dispatch in 2000, exactly the time that I decided to become an independent consultant.

Fortunately, our affiliation with the Kettering Foundation would provide us many opportunities to meet and work together over the next six years. During that time, Cole worked at the Poynter Institute then became the journalism dean at the University of Nevada. Along the way he married Catherine and they had a son, Clarke. The last time I saw Cole was in October when he served as the moderator for a panel discussion on Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role at the National Archives and Records Administration in D.C. Cole had just lost his father, but he was there filling the role professionally and with great humor starting the session acknowledging his respect for ritual as as the son of an Episcopalian minister. He then ceremoniously led us in the “turn off your cell phone” ritual.

The Kettering Foundation videotaped the Democracy’s Challenge Roundtable and I hope they find something special to do with it. How appropriate that the topic Cole moderated was the public’s role in Democracy. It was Cole’s passion and he believed that media had the power and the responsibility to help people fulfill their role as citizens. For the last two years he’s shared his ideas with the next generation of journalists. I hope that they took good notes and did their homework. We would do well with a generation of journalists with Cole’s integrity, innovation, humor, intelligence, sense of irony, and unwavering commitment to our civic life.

God bless you, our dear friend. We’ll miss ya!

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Cole Campbell and Dr. Betty Sue Flowers, LBJ Library Director

at the National Archives and Records Administration

for the Democracy’s Roundtable: Reclaiming the Public’s Role Roundtable.

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In November, Texas Forums hosted two online events -a workshop on Civic Reflection and a discussion with the author of the report on Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role forums.

These and other online workshops are archived on the new Opal Online Civic Engagement Archive Page! You can watch and hear the entire presentation including the slides we used (you WILL need a PC with Internet Explorer) or you can download the audio to your MP3 player and take us to your exercise class! We’ve also provided a link to the slides for your use.

If you have suggestions for future online events or speakers, or if you would like to hold a book discussion online, let me know. I’ll be holding in-person and virtual presentations on how to access and use this resource that the LBJ Foundation has made possible.

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[cross posted on The Deliberative Democracy Blog ]

You may have seen invitations from me to attend virtual workshops on libraries (and other public institutions) and Civic Engagement using the Online Programming for All Libraries (OPAL) environment. These are now archived and ready to be replayed. If you have ideas for future workshops or panel presentations that we can offer to members of the dialogue and deliberation community, or if you would like to conduct a workshop in this environment, please leave a comment here and make sure to include your e-mail.

Our most recent workshop was a discussion with John Doble of Doble Research Associates about the results of the National Issues Forums on Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role.


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Public Thinking about
“Democracy’s Challenge: 
Reclaiming the Public’s Role”
So what happens to all of that information that comes out of a forum?
Where does that information go?
What did people in other forums have to say about Democracy’s Challenge?

Join the researchers from Doble Research Associates for a virtual roundtable on November 15 and learn about the results of the 2005-2006 National Issues Forums

Date: November 15, 2006

Time: 1:00 p.m. Eastern, 12:00 Central, 11:00 Mountain, 10:00 Pacific

Location: OPAL Auditorium ( or go to: http://opal-online.org/ and click on Opal Auditorium)

Sponsored by: Texas Forums, an initiative of the LBJ Presidential Library.

Program description:
Last Spring Texas Forums joined with dozens of other colleagues across the country to conduct forums using the National Issues Forums discussion guide, “Democracy’s Challenge: Reclaiming the Public’s Role”. A forum in Austin was even filmed and used in a documentary, “Public Voice” that aired on public television stations across the country.


The results of these forums have been compiled in a report by Doble REsearch Associates commissioned by the Kettering Foundation and will be discussed at a roundtable in Washington, D.C. this fall.
On November 15, Texas Forums will host a
virtual roundtable with Doble Research Associates and members of the National Issues Forums network.
John Doble, Janay Cody, and Laura Kelsky, of Doble Research Associates will discuss the findings of their interviews with moderators and forum participants, review of recorded forums, analysis of post-forum questionnaires, and observation of forums.
Members of the NIF Network who have also been invited to participate:

Bill DiMascio, Pennsylvania Prison Society

Sue Darst Tate, Oklahoma Partnership for Public Deliberation

Barbara Brown, Clemson (who conducted forums with kids whose parents are serving in the military)

Bob Walker, who works with high school students

How to attend: To attend this event, go to the OPAL (Online Programming for All Libraries) Website <http://www.opal-online.org/> and enter the auditorium link on the left hand side of the page. <>. You will need a computer with speakers. If you have a microphone attached to your computer, you will be able to pose questions to the panelist orally. Otherwise, you can interact via text messaging in the virtual auditorium. If you have never attended an OPAL event, check out the video introduction at: http://www.opal-online.org/OPALpromo200603b.wmv. (Windows Media Video file; playback time 2 minutes, 39 seconds)

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Dr. David Matthews explained that politics began when a village faced a problem of a flood and the public decided “to move the damn village”. Today, politics has been construed as a system outside of the public’s hand: it is elite, exclusive, ineffective, untrustworthy, divisive and to be avoided in public discussion at the dinner table. RECLAIMING the original understanding of politics as a community-owned engagement with public issues does begin with dialogue. I reflect on my campus life and undeniably find passion, engagement and collaboration. However, it is limited to segmented, alienated, homogenous groups feeling unrepresented and in competition with other communities on campus. What would it look like for these dialogues to happen across diverse communities on campus, nation, and international issues? Students often feel disheartened by ‘just talk’ but without collaborative decisions and working through the issues- we have already forfeited our ability to unite toward collaborative action. What opportunities we have yet to explore! What would it look like for faculty, school boards, and student governments to support and encourage and move based on deliberative democracy and issue forums? What would it take to unite students to move forward as their own advocates to reclaim democracy? I have hope for alienated individuals to become valued assets in community politics.

My name is Christina Marie Hisel. I attend University of California, Berkeley as a senior in Sociology. I am currently starting public service programs to engage students with neighborhood community issues.

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