By Lucille Crelli, Story Fellow
It is difficult to have the tough conversations about issues that divide us—race, politics, religion, etc. Yet, time and time again, creating a safe space to discuss viewpoints and form relationships goes a long way in combatting biases, correcting misinformation, and developing empathy. Sometimes parties may not even have the language or context to be able to have meaningful conversations with each other, and sometimes the solution calls for actual immersion. This can be hard to find in rural areas, and it requires an intentional gathering of participants.
That's why the stories in this collection use face to face conversations with a special focus on building language capacity to combat ignorance and increase empathy. When the two parties understand each other, then progress can be made. By using this strategy, these communities are increasing racial and ethnic tolerance and welcoming ethnic minorities in rural areas.
- Imagine you were participating in the kind of "across-the-aisle" conversations described in several of the articles in the collection. What are your most strongly held social or political opinions? Who do you know personally who holds different views on these topics? What would make it easier for you to engage in perspective-sharing?
- Jane Simons wrote about a group in Michigan that uses a book club as an entry point into difficult discussions. What other activities could be leveraged to facilitate serious political or civic discussions? Why?
- What problems are being solved via The Talking Bridge?
- Choose an Issue Area or a Success Factor related to productive communication. Then, create your own collection and select at least 4 (or more) stories from the Solution’s Story Tracker that relate to your topic. If working in groups, each group can present on the issues and solutions they found most compelling.
- Journalism is a collaborative practice: reporters are writing for their community, but they also depend on community members as sources for information. Indeed, the very purpose of journalism, according to the American Press Institute, is to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. With that in mind, SJN wants to help connect news readers and journalists. Beside the name of the journalist on any of our story pages or the results page of the Solutions Story Tracker, you’ll find a Twitter icon that will link you directly to the journalists profile. Tweet at them with questions or compliments about their piece - you might be surprised by how much writers want to engage with their audiences! Don’t forget to tag us too (@soljourno) and use the hashtag #journalistintheclassroom if you are reading as part of an academic assignment.
- Some issues currently holding attention in the national political consciousness include reproductive rights, gun control, federal court reforms, the electoral college and voting rights/voting access, income inequality, and healthcare reform. Students might also be interested in discussing more university-specific issues including tuition, standardized testing, un/paid internships, compensation of college athletes, and student housing. If participants are struggling to name a person who holds different views, encourage them to consider the different groups they have belonged to: church or religious organizations, different employers, high school versus college friends, nuclear family, extended family, family friends, peers in clubs or volunteer organizations…
- Answers will vary; participants may need to be prompted to elaborate on why their chosen activity will lead to engagement with discussion.
- The Talking Bridge allows non-English speaking residents to practice their conversational skills, facilitates friendships among citizens who are otherwise limited in their interpersonal contact, and become familiar with opportunities and resources in the community.
- Answers will vary.