A Note to Parents
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A Note to Parents

Dear Parents,

Your child’s classroom/school will be participating in Can We Talk?, an introductory experience in political dialogue across difference.[1] It's a robust, road-tested format that has earned enthusiastic reviews from students and their teachers.

The program, around since 2017, was developed by the PA Project for Civic Engagement,  a unit of the Committee of Seventy, a good-government group.  Since then, more than 30 Can We Talk? events have engaged more than a thousand students, teachers and other adults.

Through class exercises and special events, Can We Talk? gives young people tools they can then use in school, online or in the workplace to foster more productive dialogues. We view Can We Talk? as a way to counter the modern viruses of polarization and youth anxiety. We try to help prepare students for leadership in 21st-century America's workplaces and public squares.

One of Can We Talk?'s core principles is transparency.  As parents, you'll be kept informed about Can We Talk? activities and be invited to share your input with the initiative's leaders.

Here are some other core principles that drive the Can We Talk? approach:

  • Listen in the way you want to be heard – Listening is a crucial life skill, but it doesn't come naturally to most people. Nor is it often taught in schools.  Can We Talk? helps students master active listening.
  • Create a brave space (not just a safe space) – It’s important that our children know how to engage productively with  ideas that are new to them - without trigger warnings etc.
  • Start with story, not position – Stories help us connect to others' ideas and experiences in ways that merely staking out a position on an issue does not.  
  • Disagreement is fine. It’s fruitful.  Don’t try to win it or paper it over.  Explore it.  Hearing and weighing diverging views is not traumatic; it's useful. It makes you smarter.
  • Consider the possibility that, on any given issue, your information may be incomplete – None of us knows everything worthwhile there is to know on any given topic.  Yet, we often act as if we do.  So, we guide participants to be eager to learn from others, not just rebut or dismiss them.

ImpactED, a research organization in Philadelphia, has evaluated Can We Talk? events:

  • Average score on "How valuable did you find the experience?":  8.5 out of 10.
  • Average score on "Would you recommend CWT to a friend?": 8.4 out of 10.
  • 83% said the forum increased their understanding of perspectives other than their own.
  • 82% said they left feeling more confident about being able to hold productive conversations about issues.

Here is a sampling of student comments:

  • Refreshing and eye-opening.
  • The best political conversation I've ever had.
  • I loved that it brought people from different backgrounds together to experience something incredibly meaningful.
  • I made some friends for life even though I disagree with some of their viewpoints.

We are excited to be working with educators to bring this program to your schools and your children.

Please feel encouraged to contact us if you have any questions about the Can We Talk? curriculum or forums.