About

Greetings. Welcome to Democracyis.us. This is a creative project by Bill Warters promoting the value of conflict resolution education, civility, and citizen activism (of the nonviolent kind) as a core set of resources for participatory democracy. It was developed in response to the Looking at Democracy Challenge.

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Young John Dewey

In 1939, reflecting back at age 80, the famous pragmatist and educational philosopher John Dewey talked about the importance of “Creative Democracy.” He notes that there will always be differences, conflicts, and agonistic confrontations in a pluralistic democratic society. However,

To cooperate by giving differences a chance to show themselves because of the belief that the expression of difference is not only a right of the other persons but is a means of enriching one’s own life-experience, is inherent in the democratic way of life.

The present state of the world is more than a reminder that we have now to put forth every energy of our own to prove worthy of our heritage….[T]he task can be accomplished only by inventive effort and creative activity… because the depth of the present crisis is due in considerable part to the fact that for a long period we acted as if our democracy were something that perpetuated itself automatically.

[T]he heart and final guarantee of democracy is in the free gathering of neighbors on the street corner to discuss… uncensored news of the day, and in gatherings of friends…to converse freely with one another…. [E]verything which bars freedom and fullness of communication sets up barriers that divide human beings into…antagonistic…factions, and thereby undermines the democratic way of life.

Much earlier, in his 1916 book Democracy and Education Dewey noted that

A society which makes provision for participation in its good of all its members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of its institutions through interaction of the different forms of associated life is in so far democratic. Such a society must have a type of education which gives individuals a personal interest in social relationships and control, and the habits of mind which secure social changes without introducing disorder.

Core Conflict Resolution Education Skills

So what are the foundations for an educational approach that promotes creative democracy? Crawford and Bodine, in their Conflict Resolution Education guide to implementing conflict resolution in schools, identify six categories of skills/abilities that are essential components of all conflict resolution education initiatives:
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  • (1) Orientation Abilities: values, beliefs, and attitudes which promote nonviolence, empathy, fairness, justice, trust, tolerance, self-respect, respect for others, and appreciation for controversy.
  • (2) Perception Abilities: ability to understand how oneself and others can have different, yet valid, perceptions of reality
  • (3) Emotional Abilities: the ability to manage and effectively communicate a range of emotions, including anger, fear and frustration
  • (4) Communication Abilities: active listening skills, speaking to be understood and listening to understand
  • (5) Creative thinking Abilities: the ability to construct cognitive models and to perceive and solve problems in new ways.
  • (6) Critical thinking Abilities: skills to contrast and compare data, predict and analyze situations, and construct and test hypotheses.

When we decide to really start looking at democracy, we can see that conflict resolution skills, civility in public discourse, and nonviolent movements for positive social change add up to a society that will be stronger for all of us.

To better understand what I’m talking about, be sure to check out the videos we’ve collected illustrating the many ways that conflict resolution education is changing the way young people relate to each other and to the broader society they are part of. If it sounds good to you, consider using some of the resources we’ve selected to help you bring conflict resolution education into your learning environments.