Blogs

Presented by The Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

The views expressed in blog posts are strictly those of the author and do not represent the views of the Bridge Alliance or its affiliates.

Tips for Keeping Control of Difficult Conversations in Virtual Classrooms

Posted by iCivics on November 17, 2020

Reposted from iCivics.org 

 NOVEMBER 05, 2020

While remote learning has presented educators with many challenges, one unique hurdle has been figuring out how to keep control of student conversations on tough or timely topics. Virtual classrooms have made it much harder to maintain respectful, engaged dialogue when students are not physically in the room together or abiding by typical in-person classroom rules or norms.

To provide you with tools and strategies for keeping control of difficult conversations in virtual classrooms, we recently partnered with Share My Lesson on a free webinar to provide tips. If you missed it, you can watch the full recording, access our free videos and guides for teaching controversial issues, and explore the highlights below:

Laying the Groundwork
Teaching controversial issues should not occur "off the cuff". Successful discussions require preparation and the use of thoughtfully selected teaching strategies. In the preparation process, you should clarify your goals for having these discussions and the skills you want students to gain. This can help you better communicate with families, administrators, and other stakeholders about your plans. And teaching strategies create structure and a procedure to follow, which will help you maintain effective classroom management. They also require the use of texts that ground students' arguments in facts.

 

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Post-Election Depolarization May Come from Surprising Places: An Initiative from Hollywood’s Captain America

Posted by AllSides on November 13, 2020

By Sukhayl Niyazov, independent author and volunteer at Braver Angels. Reposted from: AllSides.com

Hollywood has long had a strongly liberal reputation. But as America looks to heal from a divisive election, opportunities for depolarization may come from surprising places, including Hollywood. A recent project spearheaded in part by Chris Evans, the star who plays Captain America, is seeking to reduce political division.

Evans recently announced the founding of A Starting Point, a bipartisan civic engagement platform featuring a database of short videos. It kicked off in July of this year. In these videos, elected officials from all sides of the political spectrum explain their views on a variety of issues: from healthcare and the economy to social justice and foreign policy. The aim of the website is to “create a little more connectivity” between politicians and citizens.

Evans strongly supports this effort while also publicly showing his support for Joe Biden. He said in a video on Twitter, “an engaged electorate will create a government [that] more accurately reflects who we are and what we need.”

A Starting Point intends to improve the state of U.S. political discourse by exposing Americans to diverse voices in a non-partisan way. Politicians are able to clearly articulate their views and encourage constituents to become more engaged in politics. Ideally, this bridges gaps between politicians and their constituents, and between Republicans and Democrats.

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To My Fellow Americans, from a Humble Member of Braver Angels

Posted by Luke Phillips on November 03, 2020

Reposted from BraverAngels.org 

We cannot know the future. But we do know where we are, and what we’ve endured; and it grows increasingly evident that our times of great rancor, great anguish, and great malice will very likely only worsen after Election Day 2020. We will see rancor, anguish, and malice in each other; we will know it in ourselves.

And all for good reason; for much is now at stake. Our communities and our principles, our rights and our heritage, the most vulnerable among us, our system of government and our trust in each other, all are threatened in this election as never before in our lifetimes. The rage, the fear, the hate we feel, arise for the best of reasons—out of love. Our love for our way of life, our love for the things and people we’ve held dear, and a noble desire to protect those things from all who would endanger them.

And so, let us act in love on Election Day; let us argue and campaign and vote for what we love.

But whatever the outcome of the election—whether our candidate or party loses or wins, whether there’s a long stalemate and uncertainty, or worse, whether we enter some uncharted constitutional crisis, should that come—whatever the election’s outcome, and regardless of its implications, and what rage and fear and hate they might inspire in us, let us continue to act in love. So let us pledge to act in love beyond Election Day. Let us act in love, onward to Inauguration Day, throughout the next presidential term, and onward into our country’s uncertain future.

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How to Bring Mindfulness into Politics

Posted by IssueVoter on October 22, 2020

By Shahreen Hossain of IssueVoter. Reposted from IssueVoter.org.

A non-cliché guide to bringing wellness into the political sphere.

What is this often-used term “mindfulness”?

It is the ability to fully be present and engaged in any given moment. Studies have shown mindfulness lowers ruminative thinking, reduces stress, and lessens emotional reactivity while it boosts memory and focus.

The etymology of the word “political” comes from polis, which is a community. As Aristotle framed it, human beings are political animals. It means each of us belongs to communities and together we aspire to make the world a better place.

“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”-Aristotle

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America’s Lost Voices

Posted by Sara Miller on October 07, 2020

The turmoil that coronavirus has exacerbated is shining a spotlight on previously under-discussed topics such as race, inequality, and the criminal justice system. Yet, a critical source of systemic inequality is still not getting attention -- the fundamentally unfair practice of prison gerrymandering. 

There are several clear patterns in the prison population. First, it is disproportionately people of color. As of 2017, over 60% of individuals in prison were people of color. Black men are 6 times more likely and hispanic men are 2.7 times to be incarcerated as white men. In that same vein, black and hispanic women make up 60-67% of the female prison population. 

Another important aspect to note about the prison population is their socioeconomic status. Incarcerated people of all genders, races, and ethnicities earn much less prior to imprisonment than their non-incarcerated counterparts. In fact, the American inmate population is dramatically concentrated at the lowest ends of the national income distribution. Finally, prisoners suffer from high rates of coronavirus, mental illness, addiction problems, histories of abuse, and the list goes on. 

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Looking Beyond Election 2020: How You Can Help Heal America

Posted by Kristin Hansen on October 01, 2020

Reposted from CivicHealthProject.org

As Election Week 2020 looms, many of us are mentally preparing for worst-case scenarios: a drawn-out result, a contested outcome, a flaring-up of violent skirmishes. Under any scenario, and no matter who wins, we already know this to be true: millions of Americans will be elated, and millions of Americans will be dejected. We saw the first movie, and the sequel promises to be a real dog.

It may feel like our divisions can only be hardened in the wake of the upcoming, contentious election cycle. How could it be any other way? After all, our opinions have certainly hardened, our feelings towards one another have hardened, and the positions of our elected leaders have hardened as well. 

But what if … what if … the wake of this election could instead provide an opportunity for softening the divisions that have caused so much damage to our national psyche?  What if we could find our way back to each other, simply because we have become so fatigued with the level of animosity and rancor? What if it turns out that we did some hard work these past few years, in order to better understand and appreciate why fellow citizens might see the world differently than we do? What if we have learned a thing or two about the forces that aim to divide us along political fault lines, and we have collectively decided, “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”        

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Mail Ballot Drop Boxes: Another Option to Cast Your Ballot!

Posted by Bridge Alliance Education Fund on September 24, 2020

By Sarah Berlin, Program Director of the Voting Information Project. Reposted from: Democracy Works

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have expanded access to voting by mail in order to provide voters with another option for safely casting their ballots. As part of that expansion, more states than ever are planning to utilize mail ballot drop boxes for the General Election. Concerns about whether the US Postal Service will be able to deliver mail ballots in time to be counted has brought additional attention to using mail ballot drop boxes. Below are answers to commonly asked questions about what mail ballot drop boxes are, who can use them, and how they ensure your vote will get counted. 

WHAT IS A MAIL BALLOT DROP BOX?

A mail ballot drop box is a secured, locked box where voters can return absentee or mail ballots in signed and sealed envelopes, rather than putting it through the mail. Drop boxes are typically placed outside of public buildings like libraries, schools, and county offices, but sometimes they can be inside of buildings. Ballots are regularly retrieved from the boxes by election office staff. 

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Make Sure Your (Mail-in) Ballot Counts

Posted by Brian Miller on September 22, 2020

Reposted from NonprofitVOTE.org.

This will be an election like none other, but rest assured, it will go on. Thankfully, our democracy is resilient. We’ve held elections in wartime, during the Great Depression, and amidst the 2018 flu pandemic. We can do this! We will do this. However, central to holding a representative election safely amidst this pandemic is the dramatic expansion of mail-in voting. 

To be clear, this is not a new, untested voting method. Our nation has allowed mail-in voting since the Civil War. As recently as the record-breaking 2018 election, 25% of all ballots cast nationwide were cast by mail. Many of these mail-in ballots came from Vote-at-Home (aka Vote by Mail) states like Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, and more recently California and Utah. But it also came from states across the nation where absentee mail-in voting is just common, such as Florida where a third of votes cast in 2018 were cast by mail.

As states expand use of mail-in ballots amid COVID-19, we could see well over half of all votes cast this year being cast by mail. So, if you’re a voter new to this method of voting, how do you make sure your mail-in ballot counts? If you’re a nonprofit, library, college, or civically-minded business, how do you make sure your staff and community can make their voice heard?

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Breakthrough Facilitation

Posted by Interactivity Found on September 17, 2020

By Jack Byrd Jr., President of the Interactivity Foundation. Reposted from: InteractivityFoundation.org

How can we help students become breakthrough facilitators?

Cathy began her office hour visit with some hesitation, “Dr. Sperios, I didn’t want to sound like I’m grade-grubbing, but I don’t understand my latest discussion facilitation grade. You wrote on the evaluation sheet that I did much better, but my grade was lower than the first time.”

“Cathy, do you have your syllabus? Let’s take a look, so I can explain,” responded Sperios. “See the grade section. I made a point that your facilitation grades will be progressive. Notice that the round one facilitation is based on what I refer to as facilitation mechanics. You’ll see those listed as:

  • Note taking
  • Involving everyone
  • Managing the discussion time
  • Managing the flow

“You did much better on these aspects of facilitation this time.

“Now look at the round two criteria:

  • Framing the discussion questions
  • Elevating the discussion through your discussion interactions
  • Having a discussion strategy that goes beyond the obvious
  • Helping the group achieve breakthrough insights

“You’re a gymnast. What kind of score would you get if you were perfect on a low difficulty routine?”

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Why Nonprofits Must Remember the March on Washington

Posted by James Hill on September 03, 2020

Reposted from NonprofitVote.org

August 28, 1963 was 57 years ago.

However, as we watch the news and look out our windows at untold thousands filling the streets, arm-in-arm for racial justice, that date and the famous March on Washington that it commemorates, feels like yesterday, or maybe even tomorrow.

It’s easy to look at the black-and-white footage from that day, seeing younger versions of John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr.,Daisy Bates, and mistake it for ancient history. It’s easy to forget what America truly looked like on that day for millions of its citizens.

In 1963, it was still normal to disenfranchise Black people looking to have their voices heard at the ballot box. Through poll taxes, literacy tests and basic intimidation, the voices of Black America were routinely suppressed and undercounted at the local, state and federal level. 

In 1963, a woman could be denied service at a bar; a lesbian could be fired if her sexuality was revealed; a Sikh man could be turned away at the local store — all within legal bounds. In 1963, Whites-Only spaces were still legal.  

This is the year Michael Jordan was born. This is the year “Doctor Who” premiered.       

So what happened in 1963 to cause the nation to reflect upon its nature?

There is certainly no one thing that sparked the flame. What we understand as “The Civil Rights Movement” —the series of local demonstrations by thousands of unknown activists to verify the promise of the constitutional amendments 

passed in the wake of the Civil War, was already decades old in the 1960s. We’d already seen (some) women gain the right to vote and the legal inclusion of Black people as citizens, though not yet equipped with all their unalienable rights.

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