Let’s Talk: A Conversation about Faith & Understanding at a Texas High School

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The posters extended an invitation: “Let’s Talk.” The next line hinted at a joke that could get uncomfortable… “A Christian, a Muslim and a Hindu Walk into a School.” At Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas, three students looked beyond that discomfort to step into the spotlight and answer questions about their beliefs. Jay Schlaegel, a Senior there, crafted the invitation to get people talking about the event. He recalls noticing the frustrations he knew from national headlines had started to gain traction in his community. Jay talks about the “small shifts” he saw in how people talked to one…

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Notes from Our Past: Understanding the Threat of a Demagogue

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There’s no clearer sign about the character of this year’s presidential contest than the renewed interest in asking Google,  “What is a demagogue?” Senator Joseph McCarthy (led the Communist witch hunt) and Governor George C. Wallace (defended segregation) have landed in the news again as everyone grapples with whether or not we’re on the verge of electing a demagogue to the highest office. We all know demagogues are bad and could probably name a couple. What we really want to know is if we have the self-governing skills to recognize a demagogue without the benefit of reading about it in a…

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A Student Steps Up: Creative Impatience and the Willingness to Act

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As a High School Civics teacher, I am often and absolutely embarrassed by my own lack of civic activism. While I am encouraging and requiring and rewarding my students for getting involved in something – ANYTHING! – that they care about to protect or improve their communities, I nearly never practice what I preach. And it’s not simply that as a young, charter school teacher, my time and energy seem to disappear into an unending vortex of planning/grading/updating/bureaucracizing. OR the fact that as a perpetual presenter of the fair and balanced, I am daily forced to equivocate, moderate and pause…

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#CitizensRead: “Gumption” and the Battle Cry of a Decent People

#CitizensRead: “Gumption” and the Battle Cry of a Decent People

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American founders worried about limiting our expectations if we only understood ourselves through lists. In the original case, the question revolved around the perils of listing fundamental rights. That list became our Bill of Rights, a document that many mistake for the sum total of their constitutional rights. That’s what Madison was afraid would happen. More than two hundred and twenty-five years later, Nick Offerman has his own list for us and a powerful example of how to understand lists as a set of forward-looking propositions that require our participation. In Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest…

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How to Start Something: Criminal Justice Reform and Buying In

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Lucy’s niece had been convicted to life in prison. Watching Hannah endure the proceedings, she could hear the phrase we’ve all mumbled by heart, “And justice for all,” as it became a more and more distant echo. One injustice came after another and no one else seemed to notice or care. Hannah’s odds kept getting worse and worse. Lucy had watched the case from the courtroom convinced this story was an anomaly. Something had gone wrong. There was a misfire somewhere so she watched quietly believing the tragic circumstances would crumble when someone rushed in with undeniable proof or when…

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Opinion: I Knew Shays’ Rebellion. You’re No Shays’ Rebellion.

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Once upon a time, a militia saved our young nation from domestic insurrection, ages before the “Y’All Queda” interest groups cast themselves in false-flags: Saviors of the Constitution. Now: If you’ve been following the episode in Oregon, you know that the Hammonds were sent to jail by a federal order for setting brush fires on land they were leasing from the American people.  Willingly, the Hammonds reported for jail time; yet, in a bizarre twist of events, a group, riding on the coattails of “federal intrigue,” chose the moment to occupy a National Wildlife Refuge in the area. Again, the…

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Our Civic Health: Discovering the Art & Science of Working Together

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There’s a chorus asking us to think about our civic health. A relatively quiet (i.e., hardly noticeable) effort in Arizona added the citizenship test to graduation requirements. Then there was San Bernardino. And, in President Obama’s State of the Union speech, he asked American citizens to join him in creating a “better politics.” The question that rose above the usual position taking in San Bernardino sounded like one we all expected so it was easy to miss. It wasn’t whether or not HE was crazy but whether or not WE are. The implication is that it’s possible for us to…

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