The Fundamentals of Civic Discourse

Instructor:  The Rev. John Nieman

  • Thursday, February 20th, 2020
  • 9:30 am to 3:00 pm

We live in a polarized society in which attempts to reach understanding across different perspectives on vital issues that affect all of us can be painful and leave us feeling hopeless. Discussions among colleagues, friends, and even family members sometimes devolve into outbursts of, “How can you think that way?” or “You’re a racist!” Some respond by retreating into media echo-chambers of people whose perspectives match their own. Other people simply avoid all potentially divisive conversations. There is a better option. This class is for those who want to contribute to restoring civility in our public and private discourse. We will cover the basic tenets of civil discourse, the role that personal and institutional values play in reaching understanding, and the importance of creating safe environments for dialogue. Finally, we will gain practice in the art of civil discourse.

No class limit. No text required.

The Rev. John Nieman has been an Episcopal priest for over 32 years, and presently serves as the Interim Priest at St. Margaret’s in Belfast. After earning an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School in 1987, he has led congregations in four states, focusing over the past 15 years in contexts requiring healing, reconciliation, and the need to envision a healthier future. Part of that work has included the countering of incivility in our society by teaching (and trying to practice!) the basic tenets and behaviors of civil discourse.