Nearly every Constitution around the world was created as a direct result of lengthy civil disagreement, civic engagement, and activism from civil society. America’s founding fathers argued over an overwhelming number of issues at the Philadelphia Convention. President George Washington’s letter to the President of Congress of 17 September 1787 emphasized that their work was “the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.” Today, living in a polarized world, we may very well wonder: what happened to that spirit of mutual deference?

The most successful mediators and peacekeepers understand the value of autonomy and the importance of civil disagreement and civil discourse. While we may not always agree on policy, everyone treasures their independence and desires to have their views acknowledged as legitimate. History shows us the natural consequences to be borne when we dismiss, demean, silence, or otherwise trample upon the autonomy of another human being. If we wish to avoid repeating these mistakes, we must all work together to revive civic discourse and to learn to disagree civilly is the first step.

This class is a forum for students to come to hold a dialog about current events, historical and modern movements that inspire and concern them and ideas for positive and sustainable change. The class is run as a Socratic seminar, inspired by our seminars at Oxford University. Students are encouraged to study modern and historical activists that have shaped the world and to utilize the information they gather about their inspiration in the seminar.

Students will analyze how leaders create and present their core message, identify and reach their target audience, identify and reach those with the power to fulfill their needs and find allies and build coalitions to expand their grassroots campaigns. Participants will identify and analyze the tools successful leaders use to reach and mobilize society and change-makers.

This course will provide students with the tools to open the hearts and minds of others to move toward positive, sustainable change and revive civil disagreement and civil discourse within their communities.