Be the Goodness and Kindness of Jesus — Collaborative Civil Discourse
Fall Semester 2022 of The Word Magazine
On November 2, all DSHA students spent their World Language or Applied Wellness hour learning about how to engage in civil discourse rooted in the Salvatorian mission call to be the goodness and kindness of Jesus to one another.
During these sessions, led by a member of the academic administrative team, students learned to understand and articulate the scriptural foundation of collaborative civil discourse at DSHA. Additionally, in small group discussions, they worked through recognizing appropriate examples of DSHA’s civil discourse guidelines (noted below), how to put them into practice, and how to respectfully respond when others may not follow the guidelines.
Consistent with the collaboration core value delegated to DSHA by the Sisters of the Divine Savior, the purpose of these guidelines is to provide the framework for respectful conversations that create a sense of unity as students learn and grow from one another’s insights, experiences, and perspectives. The intention for the guidelines is to shape discussions in the classroom, in-person social and co-curricular interactions, and even social media platform engagement. All students committed to follow the eight guidelines with the understanding that these environments flourish when a community seeks truth through collaborative and constructive dialogue, and listen with a sincere desire to learn from one another, particularly when facing conflicting ideas, opinions, and viewpoints.
COLLABORATIVE CIVIL DISCOURSE GUIDELINES FOR THE DSHA CLASSROOM & BEYOND
1 | Our goal is to discover truth together. No one wins or loses in collaborative discourse. Be compassionate with others even when you disagree. Be vulnerable and open to evolving your own views. Scriptural reference and guidance: Building a community rooted in unity. How good and kind it is when God’s people live together in unity! — Psalm 133:1
2 | Your first priority is listening. Our goal is to turn our ears to wisdom, and incline our heart to understanding. This involves actively listening to others, so we can discover what we share as true. Listen for commonalities, not just differences. Scriptural reference and guidance: Building a community rooted in unity. How good and kind it is when God’s people live together in unity! — Psalm 133:1
3 | Embrace positive behavior. Notice how you are reacting and responding when others speak. Give positive feedback, even those you disagree with, through encouraging words and actions. Recognize the goodness and kindness of Jesus. Scriptural reference and guidance: Recognizing the human dignity of each person. Turn your ear to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding. — Proverbs 2:2
4 | Do not interrupt. Do not talk over someone else who is speaking, even when you are excited. Side conversations are disrespectful to the speaker and distracting. Scriptural reference and guidance: Recognizing the human dignity of each person. Turn your ear to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding. — Proverbs 2:2
5 | Do not disrespect others. Do not make demeaning or inappropriate comments, facial expressions, or gestures; remain checked in to the conversation. Scriptural reference and guidance: Recognizing the human dignity of each person. Turn your ear to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding. — Proverbs 2:2
6 | Practice empathy. This is especially important when you disagree with others. Never reject another person in full just because you disagree with some of their opinions. Scriptural reference and guidance: Listening and speaking with the guidance of Jesus on minds, hearts, and in our words. Be the Goodness and Kindness of Jesus, the Savior. — Titus 3:4
7 | Seek to clarify differences. Ask questions to understand when you do not agree. Don’t assume that you know what someone else means. Differentiate between facts and opinions. Scriptural reference and guidance: Listening and speaking with the guidance of Jesus on minds, hearts, and in our words. Be the Goodness and Kindness of Jesus, the Savior. — Titus 3:4
8 | Find common ground. Identify and call attention to areas of agreement. The goal is to engage with alternative views to better understand the truth and to develop unity within our community. Scriptural reference and guidance: Listening and speaking with the guidance of Jesus on minds, hearts, and in our words. Be the Goodness and Kindness of Jesus, the Savior. — Titus 3:4
IMPACT ON CLASSROOM + COMMUNITY
On Discussion in A.P. U.S. Government & Politics “Having our collaborative civil discourse guidelines did impact our conversations in a really positive way —especially in A.P Government. It helped to have documentation hanging in the classroom to refer to. Disagreeing without being disagreeable is an important skill to have. Additionally, in my A.P. Government class, and for seniors preparing to vote, we have used the USCCB’s (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) ‘Faithful Citizenship 2022’ document to help students work through questions on responsible citizenship, to help students recognize the nuance of evaluating a position. The broader media often shows political contests from a ‘how to defeat’ perspective. However, when we use guidelines like our civil discourse framework and the USCCB’s questions, we are able to enter into a safe space of listening to understand. I think we’ve done a really good job of creating this type of environment for our students.” ~ Social Studies Faculty Patrick Dawson
“I think everyone felt comfortable sharing opinions in class with the civil discourse guidelines. Having the framework helped us to focus on listening and respecting each other. Sometimes it can be difficult to have sensitive conversations, but after we had the training, it was a good reminder that helped guide serious discussions with an emphasis on understanding other opinions and learning new ways of thinking about things.” ~Lila Waltenberger, DSHA ’25
On Discussion in The Sacramental Life: Encounters with Christ “The guidelines have given me some language and structure for how to approach conversations where students have different backgrounds and perspectives. I appreciate that they are so rooted in listening. I studied at a Benedictine school for my master's degree, St. John's University, and St. Benedict called his community to listen ‘with the ear of your heart’. I love that line and that's what we invite students to do through these guidelines. I have seen the greatest impact in my sophomore Sacramental Life class. For example, when we were discussing baptism, we did a day of infant baptism dialogues. Students were asked to dialogue on the reasons why different Christian denominations hold different views on what age to baptize. The students did a really good job listening to each other as they formed rationale. After students were assigned an age to formulate an argument around, I gave them a chance to share their personal views. They listened with such care and respect; they gave each other the time and space to respond. As a teacher, I’m grateful for the framework as something we can commit to as a whole school —in and outside of the classroom.” ~ Theology Faculty Jena-Thurow-Mountin
“I think it is really important to hear different points of views from each other —not just on the opinion but why someone feels the way they do. It isn’t necessary to agree, but it is important to understand. Understanding each other is a vital part of learning — especially in theology class. Listening helps us connect with each other. Even outside the classroom and into our daily lives. I’m on Service Team and I’ve noticed the guidelines have helped us to bounce ideas off of each other, and understand and respect where someone is coming from. This is so important in trying to build up the community.” ~ Charlie Smukowski, DSHA ’25