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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Local Deliberation

In his portrayal of democracy and American politics, Alexis de Tocqueville argued that townships were where a citizen "practices the art of government in the small sphere within his reach; he accustoms himself to those forms which can alone ensure the steady progress of liberty ... and collects clear practical notions on the nature of his duties and the extent of his rights." Whether it is a civic association meeting or a townhall meeting, we have the ability to approximate Tocqueville's idealized township if we engage meaningfully at the local level.

The Center for Civic Engagement at Lone Star College-Kingwood has taken up the task of building democratic skills through meaningful dialogue.

Working with the National Issues Forum and the Kettering Foundation, LSC-Kingwood has initiated a deliberative dialogue program that seeks to teach students, faculty, staff and community members the skills that are necessary to discuss and understand complex issues. These dialogues give citizens the opportunity to join together to deliberate, to make choices with others about ways to approach difficult issues, and to work toward creating reasoned public judgment. Deliberative dialogues build on the theory that democracy requires citizens to engage in ongoing deliberation on public matters. The program builds on the idea that it is our communities and discourse that are the foundations for civic renewal.