Designing Learning for Civic Engagement and Civil Discourse


The last several years have been marked by increasing polarization and diminishing capacity for civil discourse. Some educators may feel intimidated by the prospect of engaging learners in conversations related to civic engagement, fearing confrontational conversations among students, objections from parents, or reprisal from administrators. And yet, the purpose of education is, in part, to equip young people with the skills to be active, responsible participants in the democratic process.  Jewish education, specifically, is intended to help learners rely on their heritage as a source of inspiration and understanding as they navigate the everyday challenges of their lives. As Jewish educators, we are obligated to create safe spaces for our learners to explore their understanding of, and responsibility to, our government.

This Discussion Guide is intended to help Jewish educators address the topics of civil engagement and discourse. The videos included here are excerpts from a webinar hosted by The Jewish Education Project just days after the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, featuring Dr. Tamara Mann Tweel, Director of Civic Initiatives at the Teagle Foundation, Hepzibah Alon of Facing History and Ourselves, and moderated by Rabbi Dena Klein of The Jewish Education Project.

In this resource you will find a PDF Discussion Guide, in addition to video excerpts from the webinar. Each video is accompanied by discussion questions that will enable teachers to consider their own feelings and those of their students, and then create lessons that address current events with greater confidence. 

The opening video is an introduction that lays the groundwork for further discussion and should be watched by all. You can then choose from among the three following modules, opting to use just one for greater focus or introducing all three. No excerpt is longer than ten minutes, and the discussion questions in the Guide can be used as you see fit. Ultimately, the goal is to facilitate discussion that helps educators grapple with their own feelings about government so that they can then design learning experiences that help their students explore their relationship with government, democracy, and each other.

You can view the entire webinar and associated materials here.



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