Ground Rules for Discussion, Summer 2017

The course takes up topics of a difficult and sometimes sensitive nature. We all learn more when a variety of perspectives is available for discussion, but this requires that we provide rules that allow those perspectives to be shared candidly and safely, balancing candor with rigor.

  1. Each class will begin with an opportunity for members of the class to raise topics that are sensitive spots for them, so that other members of the class can be mindful about those topics in discussion. This is not meant to shut down topics of conversation, but rather to encourage respectfulness and tact.

  2. Follow the convention for hand-raising rather than interrupting or jumping in to the conversation:
    a. Raising your hand – New topic on the broad theme of the conversation taking place.
    b. Raising a finger – Followup to a comment that has just been made, or on the narrow topic of conversation currently under discussion.

  3. Speak to others with respect. Acknowledge that they have a perspective different from your own, and their feelings and perceptions are their own. Critique ideas or actions, not persons or groups, and especially not people in the room. Be sensitive to how what you say can be heard.

  4. Be a generous listener. Assume that your classmates are doing their best, and provide them space to make honest mistakes. Assume that all contributions are made in good faith, while not being afraid to gently suggest ways of improvement.

  5. Moderate your quantity of participation. If you find yourself speaking first in each round of discussion in some class period, pause for a moment to let other classmates weigh in. If you find yourself listening but not contributing to the conversation for long stretches of time, push yourself to contribute an observation, even a small one.

  6. Avoid technological distractions. Silence your phone, and don’t check them for messages during class. If you need your tablet or laptop to access the day’s reading, stay off of email, social media, etc. We’ll have a couple of breaks each class where you can do these things. Feel free to look up information online if it will contribute to our discussion.

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