Utah Case Studies in Civil Dialogue

We have a problem in the United States. We are more divided than ever.  Our public discourse is increasingly polarized.  In this environment, students are learning to view those with different views as the enemy.  This polarization has led to a rise of contempt in American politics and society. Contempt means to view others with scorn or think they are inferior. 

The rising American generation-–you-–can be part of the solution. As you prepare for responsibilities in citizenship, you can develop the competency of civil dialogue and engage with others who see things differently than you do. The 3Rs–-rights, responsibility, and respect–-can guide you in your preparation for citizenship. These are to: 

 

  1. Understand every human has the right of conscience; 
  2. Feel a responsibility to protect the rights of others; 
  3. Respect the human dignity of others and their freedom to disagree.

 

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.  The case studies below follow the KSAM Method. Each case study highlights a component of civil dialogue: Knowledge, Skills, Attitude, or Motivation. 

In Case Study 1, you’ll 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. You’ll learn that civil dialogue is not debate. It’s a process of communicating with respect and listening with empathy. 

In Case Study 1, you’ll 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 3, you’ll 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, you’ll 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 2, you’ll 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, you 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 4, you’ll 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, you’ll 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.