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Past Event

Experiencing Democracy: Creating a Civic Culture in School

Today’s students have grown up in a political culture of polarization that has exacerbated public distrust. In this environment, how can educators teach young people to engage with controversial issues in such a way that schools do not become partisan institutions?

Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy propose that teachers should not shy away from political controversy. Instead, they should see their job as helping students develop the skills and dispositions of deliberation by practicing speaking and listening with civility, backing up ideas with evidence and information, and considering how one’s own views affect others. Further, because classrooms are “unusual political spaces” in which young people hone their political and social identities, Hess and McAvoy argue that students deserve the opportunity to puzzle about the issues they are inheriting in a way that models good thinking and reasoning. It is these experiences that best prepare future citizens to answer the vital question, “How should we live together?” Teaching these habits of political friendship upholds the civic ideal of our democracy and offers hope that over time, goodwill can transform a distrustful political sphere.

This back-to-school event is for everyone who is concerned about democracy and the preservation of open discussion in education; teachers are especially encouraged to attend. It will take place online and in person; we will welcome our speakers virtually and moderator Milton Reynolds will join a live audience in our building on The Embarcadero.

All in-person attendees are invited to join us for a social hour before the program with complimentary wine, soft drinks, and light snacks.


This program is part of The Commonwealth Club's civics education initiative, Creating Citizens.

Creating Citizens supported by Koret

September 27, 2022

The Commonwealth Club of California
110 The Embarcadero
Toni Rembe Rock Auditorium
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

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Diana Hess

Dean and Karen A. Falk Distinguished Chair of Education, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Paula McAvoy

Associate Professor of Social Studies Education, North Carolina State University

Image - Milton Reynolds

Milton Reynolds

Founder, Milton Reynolds Consulting—Moderator