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February 2021

KENT DENVER SCHOOL

PERSPECTIVE

Issue 1
February 2021

KDS Forums Offer Space for Civil Discourse

While Kent Denver classrooms provide frequent opportunities for respectful and productive discussions across many disciplines, Kent Denver's history department realizes that many students had a desire to engage more deeply with issues and topics related to the 2020 Presidential election.

To support that interest and help educate this next generation of voters, history teachers created Kent Denver Forums—optional, after-school gatherings that allowed students to discuss a series of issues related to the 2020 election.

"The goal of these Forums is to help promote civil discourse at Kent Denver and to give students a place to practice disagreement and to share ideas in a safe environment," explains History Department Chair Ginna Halverson. "We also want to promote civic engagement and literacy about this and future elections."

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In September, several upper-schoolers participated in a trial KDS Forum that focused on the pros and cons of the Electoral College. After reading articles with competing viewpoints and agreeing to pre-established discussion norms (see below), students discussed the merits of our presidential selection process and the impact it has on U.S. elections.

A second Kent Denver Forum in late September addressed the importance of a Supreme Court nomination to most recent election. Future KDS Forums might address issues such as religious liberty, gun control, climate change, systemic racism, money in politics, police reform, federalism and/or the pandemic.

"We want students to know that it's okay to share their political opinions with their peers," says History Teacher and Debate Coach Mike Bausch. "Providing an atmosphere that encourages respect towards each other is the ultimate goal, and gives students a model for what civil discourse should look like."


KDS Forum Norms

  • Listen for understanding
  • Everyone should get an equal chance to speak
  • Assume good will and suspend judgment when listening
  • If something offends/bothers you say so, and explain why
  • Focus disagreement/challenges on what is being said, not the person
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KDS Forums Offer Space for Civil Discourse

This year, the history department created Kent Denver Forums—optional, after-school gatherings that allowed students to discuss a series of issues related to the 2020 election.