Civil Dialogue and Citizenship

Navigating Our Deepest Differences

Lesson I. A More Perfect Union and Political Differences

Step 1. A More Perfect Union



Wrestling With Making a More Perfect Union 

Self-government is a messy process. It requires wrestling with differences and building common ground across deep divides. There would be more order in society if an absolute monarch gave orders from a throne, but there would be much less freedom, too. Reportedly, when Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention, a woman asked him, “Well, Doctor, what have we got–a republic or a monarchy? Franklin is said to have responded with “A republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin was letting on to how difficult it was to keep an experiment in government by the people going. As Americans, people have both rights and responsibilities. The 3Rs–rights, responsibility, respect– can help us keep our republic. These include:  

  1. Understanding every human has the right of conscience; 
  2. Feeling a responsibility to protect rights of others; 
  3. Respecting  the human dignity of others and their freedom to disagree. 

The Framers in the Constitutional Convention styled the Preamble with the following phrase: 

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union…

The process of creating a more perfect Union is ongoing. At the time, the Framers in Convention sent the Constitution to the states to be ratified, hundreds of thousands of people in the United States were enslaved. The work of making our Union more perfect required wrestling with ending slavery, in spite of the entrenched economic interests that drove it.  Also, at the time the Constitution was created, women were excluded from electing leaders. 

This process of making a more perfect union is a messy process. It requires wrestling with differences and building common ground across deep divides. To keep the republic going, each generation has to wrestle in the process. If that wrestling ends, so does the republic. 

Public Schools Charged with Teaching Rising Citizens 

Public schools are charged with enabling rising American citizens to wrestle with our deepest differences. If we fail in our schools to teach and model the rights and responsibilities that flow from the Constitution, then surely we endanger the future of our daring experiment in self-government. 

It’s important for students to learn in school how to seek understanding of others who think differently, but still share the same public square. 

Join me to learn more about Liberals and Conservatives and building common ground across deep divides. 

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Lesson I. Step 1 of 6


Learn more about how to promote the 3Rs — rights, responsibility, respect — in your school and community.