After using this approach in my classroom, I am now more willing, and more able, to engage students in meaningful conversations about potentially contentious issues. Whereas I used to nod toward things like homosexuality in religious life, interfaith marriage, or the role of government in reproduction, now I build these conversations into the class so students can learn to speak about their experiences, and so they learn to listen and learn from those with whom they might disagree.
Dr. Jill DeTemple, Religious Studies Faculty
Southern Methodist University, Texas
During one dialogue, as we were reading The Joy Luck Club, we were asked to discuss our relationship to America. There were students who grew up in the United States and also those who hadn’t—and I was surprised to hear that everyone had equally complex relationships with the topic.
I appreciated being able to hear and express the full depth of our own context before delving into a discussion about first-generation immigrants.
Gordon College, Massachusetts
The highlight for me was the interconnectedness of the participants’ views, mutual respect, and range of experiences within the group
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Essential Partners teaches people how to build strong community bonds across differences of values, beliefs, and identities.
“If everyday Americans don’t talk about issues as important as this one,” writes Essential Partners co-director Katie Hyten, “how can we expect a better national conversation? How can we ask more of the people who represent us?”