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Jacob Z. Hess, Ph.D. Candidate, Clinical-Community Psychology

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  1. “In our modern culture, men and women are able to interact with one another in many ways: they can sing, dance or play together with little difficulty, but their ability to talk together about subjects that matter deeply to them seems invariably to lead to dispute, division and often to violence.” Bohm, Factor & Garret (1991) Dialogue: A Proposal. p.1

  2. Attracting Conservatives to Dialogue: Liberal-Conservative Campus Dialogue & Mormon-Evangelical Initiatives. Jacob Z. Hess, Ph.D. Candidate, Clinical-Community Psychology University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Pastor Gregory Johnson Director, Standing Together

  3. NCDD listserv discussion, 2003: • Question posed: "What should we do when our most visible collaborator is perceived as liberal, yet our goals are to involve people with all ideologies?"

  4. NCDD listserv discussion, 2003: • Question posed: "What should we do when our most visible collaborator is perceived as liberal, yet our goals are to involve people with all ideologies?" • Second question: "Are conservatives less interested in citizen engagement than liberals?"

  5. “I might be wrong here but I can't think of a more disconnected condition than the conservative movement in this country feeling open to dialogue, the two just don't fit well together.”

  6. NCDD listserv discussion, 2004: Additional questions posed: • “Why are so few conservatives involved in NCDD, and in dialogue and deliberation in general?” • “How can we attract more conservatives to this work?”

  7. Terminology qualification: Primarily socially conservative-leaning citizens  “Conservative” Primarily socially liberal-leaning citizens  “Liberal”

  8. Campus Dialogue Initiatives Khuri, M. L. (2004). Facilitating Arab-Jewish intergroup dialogue in the college setting. Race Ethnicity and Education, 7(3), 229 - 250. Thompson, M. C., Brett, T. G. & Behling, C. (2001). The program on intergroup relations, conflict and community at the University of Michigan. In D. L. Schoem & S. Hurtado (Eds.). Intergroup Dialogue: Deliberative Democracy in School, College, Community and Workplace (pp. 99-114). Anne Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Trevino, J. (2001). Voices of discovery: Intergroup dialogues at Arizona State University. In D. L. Schoem & S. Hurtado (Eds.). Intergroup Dialogue: Deliberative Democracy in School, College, Community and Workplace (pp. 87-98). Anne Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

  9. Liberal-Conservative Dialogue: UIUC Program on Intergroup Relations Undergrad Seminar. “This dialogue will offer students an opportunity to dialogue about the historical and current meaning of conservative and liberal identities.  Students will get a chance to unpack the assumptions, agendas and meanings associated with these concepts and explore the complexities often not addressed when these terms are used as labels.” Mondays: 3:00-4:50

  10. So how does the class work? • Balanced class—a) student applications b) selection of 20 reflecting diverse political views • Balanced facilitators • First session—intro, ground rules • Second session – political orientation exercises & vote on topics • Final 5 sessions: hot-topics

  11. A surprising encounter . . “I was initially surprised [at] the makeup of my classmates. My partner for the initial activity, who I regarded as a friendly and seemingly intelligent girl, chose to identify herself with the ‘conservatives.’”

  12. Top “hot topics” chosen by students: • The definition of marriage/gay marriage • Abortion • Church/state relations • Foreign policy—U.S. role in the world/Iraq • Race relations

  13. If you would like more details . .Send me an e-mail . . Hess, J. Z., Rynczak, D., Minarak, J. & Landrum-Brown, J. (in press). Alternative settings for liberal- conservative exchange: Examining an undergraduate dialogue course. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology.

  14. Student feedback, theme #1: Discovering a “new” way to talk. • “It was like nothing I have experienced before.” • “[I learned] that it is possible to talk about politically relevant issues without being antagonistic or attacking”

  15. Student feedback, theme #1: Discovering a “new” way to talk. • “It was like nothing I have experienced before.” • “[I learned] that it is possible to talk about politically relevant issues without being antagonistic or attacking” • “Our class last week was a very first for me. It was maybe the [only] time I saw people discuss gay marriage in a respectful way.” • “I couldn’t believe . . . that others shared that they were confused by things (something that I am not used to, being a political science major in which if you don’t know you pretend to know).”

  16. Student feedback, theme #2:Seeing others in a new way.

  17. Some initial student perceptions: Liberals on Conservatives: • “uneducated, fanatically religious” • “imposing religious values on the lives of others” • “when they disagree or agree about something, they really do not have a reason; it’s just because that’s what they were taught when they were younger.”

  18. Some initial student perceptions: Liberals on Conservatives: • “uneducated, fanatically religious” • “imposing religious values on the lives of others” • “when they disagree or agree about something, they really do not have a reason; it’s just because that’s what they were taught when they were younger.” Conservatives on Liberals: • “easily swayed with the times” • “destroying what American society was based on” • “people with no values”

  19. Post-course comments: In response to “what you liked least about the class?” one liberal-leaning student wrote, “Conservatives (sorry, but it’s true). For some things, I’m still baffled by conservative thought.”

  20. Post-course statistics: • Did you learn to value new viewpoints because of this course? 79% (22/28) “Yes or definitely yes”

  21. Beginning of Life Dialogue: I learned . . • “that because someone is pro choice, does not mean they support abortion” • “about the fear that pro-lifers have that abortion is allowing people to be irresponsible. I had never thought about it in that way. Even being pro-choice, I can see how that is a major concern.”

  22. Meaning of Marriage Dialogue: • “I thought it was valuable to gain a better understanding of the defense of same sex marriage. . . . I have never had the opportunity to sit down and hear the heart-felt opinions and beliefs of someone from the LGBT community.” • “[I learned] how important religion can be [to conservatives]”; “I never thought of religion shaping someone's entire life.”

  23. Student comments: • “[Dialogue] made me more open to fears and concerns of [the] counter-group.” • “It made me see them as a person and not just a view” • “The most significant thing I have learned is to look past the label of liberal or conservative and realize we are all human beings with good intentions to better ourselves and the world”

  24. Student comments: “Before this class, I went through the logic of conservatives and would think, “They have to be crazy!”

  25. Student comments: “Before this class, I went through the logic of conservatives and would think, “They have to be crazy!” From this experience, it’s great to know half of the world is not nuts. You don’t get this on TV—they’re goofy on both sides there. But from this class, I better understand now the conservative logic; I may not agree, but it makes more sense.”

  26. Theme #3 • Did this course help you understand yourself better? 79% (22/28) “Yes, helped or helped greatly”

  27. Theme #4: Student challenges “My initial internal thought[s] to most comments. . . [were] disgust and anger.” “What came out of our dialogue last week was, sadly, mainly negative things for me. It was very hard for me to sit there and listen . . . to the claims made by many people. This is an issue I know I am not flexible on, and I take personal offense to many things that are said that contrast [with] how I feel. I left class last week angry, upset, and hurt.”

  28. Student challenges: “I didn’t necessarily like the inference that because I was conservative and black that I just didn’t know my views. . . The hardest thing for me to hear are that black conservatives . . . are traitors.”

  29. Review . . • Are conservatives less interested in dialogue than liberals? Not necessarily! . . . Not inherently . .

  30. Review . . and preview • Are conservatives less interested in dialogue than liberals? Not necessarily! . . . Not inherently . . 2) If there’s nothing fundamental to conservative communities inevitably keeping them from dialogue . . what IS the problem? Where are they? Why aren’t they coming? How can we attract them more?

  31. Framing dialogue . . “The problem (as I see it) is that the deliberative democracy field [often] uses rhetoric that is off-putting to people who are not social liberals. The challenge for D&D groups, then, is to choose and frame their purpose, process, and discussion topics in a way that gets these interested-but-wary conservatives over the hump.” --Kai Degner

  32. Framing dialogue involving conservative citizens: Three potential fears to remember. 1) “Doesn’t dialogue assume that all truth is relative?”Fear of having to give up truth. 2) “Is dialogue part of a larger effort to convince me of something?” Fear of a hidden agenda. 3) “Does dialogue mean I’m going to have to compromise my beliefs? Fear of being changed.

  33. Framing dialogue involving conservative citizens: Three potential fears to remember. 1) “Doesn’t dialogue assume that all truth is relative?”Fear of having to give up truth.

  34. Framing tip #1: All views equal? “Accepting somebody else’s narrative need not mean either agreeing with it or abandoning one’s own narrative. It means only the acknowledgement of the narrative’s ‘right to exist’” --Salomon (2004). A narrative-based view of coexistence education. Journal of Social Issues, p. 278.

  35. Framing dialogue involving conservative citizens: Three potential fears to remember. 1) “Doesn’t dialogue assume that all truth is relative?”Fear of having to give up truth. 2) “Is dialogue part of a larger effort to convince me of something?” Fear of a hidden agenda.

  36. Framing tip #2: A larger agenda? a) Interfaith: Dialogue a part of a “proselyting” effort? b) Liberal/conservative: Dialogue as part of a particular political agenda?

  37. Framing tip #2: A larger agenda? • What topics do you select?

  38. “When the center first opened, we received enthusiastic support from liberals and were ignored by conservatives. Our programs looked diverse, and they were, religiously speaking. But participants were homogeneously liberal.” --Matthew Weiner, WSJ

  39. “When the center first opened, we received enthusiastic support from liberals and were ignored by conservatives. Our programs looked diverse, and they were, religiously speaking. But participants were homogeneously liberal. The more conservative religious folks were not interested in talking about spirituality, peace-building and social justice. So we refocused our programs to include seminars and information sessions on issues such as domestic violence, health-care access and immigration rights. Suddenly, every kind of religious leader came, including conservatives. Their religious perspectives did not change, but our assumptions did.” --Matthew Weiner, WSJ

  40. Framing tip #2: A larger agenda? • What topics do you select? • How do you frame particular topics?

  41. “I just got this announcement today from . . . a Chicago organization that has been running some innovative dialogue programs. I was struck by the way they framed this dialogue about the Patriot Act (‘the evolution of civil liberties,’ ‘important but sticky territory,’ etc.).” -- Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD President

  42. “I just got this announcement today from . . . a Chicago organization that has been running some innovative dialogue programs. I was struck by the way they framed this dialogue about the Patriot Act (‘the evolution of civil liberties,’ ‘important but sticky territory,’ etc.). I imagine that conservatives would not be afraid to attend this dialogue, and I wonder if part of the problem is that our skills at framing things even-handedly often fall short because of our own personal views and values.” -- Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD President

  43. Framing tip #2: A larger agenda? • What topics do you select? • How do you frame particular topics? • Is there authentic space for conservative views? (What is an allowable contribution to the dialogue?)

  44. “People . . . not willing to consider or even look at the idea that there is a God. . . . You even suggest there’s a problem in terms of “you have this sin that separates you from God and this is something that has eternal consequences” —they aren’t even willing to consider it . . . they won’t even disagree with you; they won’t even put it on their agendas on what they go through in determining who they are and what their lives looks like. People get so angered by Christians, “Oh, you know, what are you doing in my business?”. . . If I were asking . . . about anything else, you know, this would not be an issue.” --UIUC dialogue student

  45. “The religion talk got off topic to me. . . . I felt too much focus was placed on religious doctrine not pertaining to gay marriage.” “My personal complaint for our [marriage] dialogue was [that] X was the only person in the entire discussion who briefly brought up another argument against gay marriage that didn’t use religion as its basis.” “Is your position against gay marriage rooted solely in your religion or are there any other reasons?” ---Lib/Conserv Dialogue on Marriage

  46. Framing tip #2: A larger agenda? • What topics do you select? • How do you frame particular topics? • Is there authentic space for conservative views? (What is an allowable contribution to the dialogue?) • How do you portray ultimate aspirations/desirable outcomes of the dialogue?

  47. “Just what are we “dialoging” about? . . . I had a great time at the [last] conference because I’m interested in dialogue fairly abstractly, as a facilitator myself. But I also got the sense that most people there are thinking about dialogue for a particular purpose — ‘public discourse’, or ‘social change’, [etc].” --Justin T. Sampson, NCDD listserv 2008

  48. “Just what are we “dialoging” about? . . . I had a great time at the [last] conference because I’m interested in dialogue fairly abstractly, as a facilitator myself. But I also got the sense that most people there are thinking about dialogue for a particular purpose — ‘public discourse’, or ‘social change’, [etc]. Those may very well be ‘liberal’ notions themselves. If you invite me [to] dialogue about, say, improving public education, I’m not going to be very interested, because I might rather get rid of public education. --Justin T. Sampson, NCDD listserv 2008

  49. Genuine dialogue must entail the bilateral, free and un-manipulated engagement of at least two persons, two unique perspectives and ultimately two distinct agendas. The moment a space becomes, in actuality, a site for unilateral, instrumental and manipulated engagement, it arguably ceases to be “dialogue.” As Paulo Freire (1970) said, “Dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one person’s ‘depositing’ ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be ‘consumed’ by the discussants” (p. 70).