Utah Case Studies in Civil Dialogue
American society is more divided than ever. As young people grow up in this culture of contempt, they are learning to value only those who think like them while seeing everyone else as the enemy. This is a real threat to human dignity and places our country in peril. To keep our American republic, the Constitution requires citizens to live productively with one another.
Civil dialogue is a competency of American citizenship that requires developing. You can support your students as they develop this competency. Civil Dialogue can help us live well, even with deep differences. Civil dialogue is not debate. It is a process of seeking understanding by communicating with respect and listening with empathy.
These case studies are designed to provide Utah-based examples of successful dialogue. We have chosen examples of Utahans modeling good conversations across their deeply held religious differences. Each case emphasizes one of the following components of civil dialogue: Knowledge, Skills, Attitude, or Motivation.
In Case Study 1, students will learn about knowledge in civil dialogue. The knowledge you need for good dialogue starts with understanding the 3Rs: Rights, Responsibility, and Respect. This includes understanding that everyone has the right of conscience. Conscience is the inner voice that guides us to do what we believe is right. Civil dialogue is a process to understand the conscience and humanity of another person. Students will learn that civil dialogue is not debate. It’s a process of communicating with respect and listening with empathy.
In Case Study 1, students will learn about a Muslim community, known as Bozniaks, who fled genocide in Bosnia and settled in Utah. Then you’ll learn about a dialogue experience between some Bozniak and Latter-day Saint teenagers.
In Case Study 2, students will learn about the skills students bring to successful dialogue. These include listening, sitting in discomfort, and oral communication skills, such as using sentence frames.
In Case Study 2, students will learn about a dialogue in a Comparative World Religions class at Brighton High School that happened after a student in the class tore up a Book of Mormon and spread the pages throughout the school.
In Case Study 3, students will learn about bringing an attitude of openness to dialogue. This means we are curious and want to learn to understand. An attitude of openness and curiosity makes honest and hard conversations possible.
In Case Study 3, students will learn about a dialogue between Marian Edmunds-Allen who is an advocate for LGBTQ+ youth and Laura Warburton who is a self-described Mormon Mom. They started off with fear and preconceptions about one another, but through their attitudes of openness, they were able to engage in successful dialogue that led to working together for the good of kids in Utah.
In Case Study 4, students will learn about the motivations people bring into dialogue. These can include seeking an end to suffering, seeking affirmation or relationship, or it can include exploring ways to collaborate and do good in the world.
In Case Study 4, students will explore a dialogue between two University of Utah students, Austin and Humza. Austin does not believe in God and Humza is a practicing Muslim. Both grew up in Utah and share the difficulties of being a minority believer in a Utah school. These students are motivated to hold the conversation to help others understand their perspective better as a religious minority in Utah.
The 3Rs Framework
The Utah 3Rs Project promotes the civic understanding of constitutional rights by using humanities education to promote the 3Rs of religious liberty: every person has Rights; we all have the Responsibility to protect the rights of others, including people who are different; and we all have the duty to be Respectful toward other people even when we disagree.
The Utah 3Rs Project is a civic education initiative that uses humanities scholarship to cultivate students’ knowledge about the origins and effects of the First Amendment’s religion clauses. Our objective is to create a constitutional culture in Utah, whose residents respect and honor one another’s differences. This is especially critical in our current political moment as polarization increases and political attention for the marginalized has amplified.
By using Utah Case Studies in Civil Dialogue, students will…
1. Be exposed to Utah-based models of successfully holding dialogue across differences.
2. Learn about the components at play in dialogue. These include:
- Meaning of conscience, which is the inner voice that guides us to do what we believe is right.
- the 3Rs framework-Every person has rights. Every person has the responsibility to protect the rights of others. We honor the human dignity of others when we respectfully engage in civil dialogue.
- Dialogue is not debate. It is a process of seeking understanding by listening.
- Listening to hear, not listening to speak
- Sitting in the discomfort
- Using sentence frames
- Holding an attitude of openness or being curious. Being curious means we desire to learn and understand.
- We must overcome defensiveness.
- Understanding each person has a why for coming to dialogue.
- One why for coming to dialogue is the person is feeling pain and he or she wants the pain to stop.
- Another why for coming to dialogue is an exploration for collaboration.
Ways to Use this Lesson Plan
Option 1. During class time, divide students into four groups. Assign each group one of the case studies. Require them to navigate all the steps and answer the questions of the assigned case study. Invite each group to share what they learned in the case study with the class. After sharing with the class the basics of the case study, engage students in a discussion about their opinion of the events of the case study. Require students to use a sentence frame from the sentence frames document to guide their contribution to class discussion about the case studies.
Option 2. Assign each student one of the four case studies for pre-work before class. Dedicate classroom time to students sharing what they learned in the case study with partners and then as a group. After sharing with the class the basics of the case study, engage students in a discussion about their opinion of the events of the case study. Require students to use a sentence frame from the sentence frames document to guide their contribution to class discussion about the case studies.
Utah Learning Standards
Civic engagement is one of the fundamental purposes of education. The preparation of young people for participation in America’s democratic republic is vital. The progress of our communities, state, nation, and world rests upon the preparation of young people to collaboratively and deliberatively address problems, to defend their own rights and the rights of others, and to balance personal interests with the common good. Social studies classrooms are the ideal locations to foster civic virtue, consider current issues, learn how to act civilly toward others, and build a civic identity and an awareness of global issues. These skills, habits, and qualities of character will prepare students to accept responsibility for preserving and defending their liberties.
To reach these ends, student should have ample opportunities to:
Utah Studies (7th Grade)
- Engage in deliberative, collaborative, and civil dialogue regarding historical and current issues.
- Identify local, state, national, or international problems; engage with solutions to these problems; and share their ideas with appropriate public and/or private stakeholders.
United States History I (8th Grade)
United States History II (High School)
World History (High School)
Same as above, plus:
- Develop and demonstrate the values that sustain America’s democratic republic including open-mindedness, engagement, honesty, problem- solving, responsibility, diligence, resilience, empathy, self-control, and cooperation.