For People Who Believe in the Power of Thinking Together

Our Questions of Civic Proportions Newsletter features the questions, ideas, and good work that lend extra power to the civic-minded.

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Political Thinking for Everyday Citizens

Why We Believe Reading is a Civic Duty

The trend is a downward slope no one expects to turn around. Every year, fewer and fewer people report having finished a book. Our lists of leisure time pursuits often do not include “reading a book.” Books have lost their audience.

Politicolor is an act of resistance in this regard. Few of us here chase the latest trend. Most of us always have a book we’re reading. We have a shared belief that reading is a critical civic habit.

Our First Color Salon: Recalling a Human Capacity for Goodness

Our digital lives make it so that information washes over us all day, every day. People announce when they decide to quit social media and disconnect for any period of time. We have to devise a plan not to watch all the stories develop in a never-ending scroll of updates. We need to protect time to think.

An evening of deliberate thinking proved to be more refreshing than the usual social media detox. We started the evening as skeptics. An evening of thoughtful conversation restored our faith in humanity.

Practicing a civic perspective

Since the beginning, thoughtful political observation has happened by way of big questions. What makes a question big? It’s something like the theory of relativity. From one angle, the question looks as simple as asking what time it is, but the answer requires looking at everything we thought we knew from a different perspective.

Why We Believe Reading is a Civic Duty

Why We Believe Reading is a Civic Duty

The trend is a downward slope no one expects to turn around. Every year, fewer and fewer people report having finished a book. Our lists of leisure time pursuits often do not include “reading a book.” Books have lost their audience.

Politicolor is an act of resistance in this regard. Few of us here chase the latest trend. Most of us always have a book we’re reading. We have a shared belief that reading is a critical civic habit.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: What difference does one book make?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What difference does one book make?

I thought I had unlocked my superpower. When I learned to read, I participated in a program that required knocking on my neighbor’s doors. I read to them from my stapled packet of worksheets. I learned to love to read, but part of the superpower of this memory is how reading worked to connect to my community.

The efforts to ban books today are about limiting this power. They are a threat we have to take seriously.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: What’s the Remedy for a Disconnected Democratic Life?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What’s the Remedy for a Disconnected Democratic Life?

As our third legislative session wraps up in Texas, I have spent too much time with the never-ending scroll that goes along with staying up-to-date. We’ve now seen that Facebook has the evidence that our social media habits aren’t helpful for our mental health. I think it’s working against our civic health too.

Even if we set aside what we know about misinformation and extremism online, our online news consumption is corrupting our ideas of how change works.

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How Democracies Die: A Must-Read for Preventative Care

How Democracies Die: A Must-Read for Preventative Care

Conventional wisdom suggests that Donald Trump is one of the best things that ever happened for cable news. Every day had a new story, and we were told that their ratings went through the roof. I avoided cable news and vowed to never turn a single page in a book about the man, his administration, or anyone who now wants to tell us how they worked on the inside to save us all from certain doom. As a result, I nearly skipped How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

This book, however, is the book to read if you want to know what we should be talking about instead.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: Can we fight loss with love?

Questions of Civic Proportions: Can we fight loss with love?

In an instant, the right song has the power to transport across time and space to some past moment. On this day, there’s a song that transports me to a moment that we share.

At some point in the day, every April 4th, I think “A shot rang out in the Memphis sky.”

This is the shot that killed Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. A shot that marks the end of so much, a final chapter in the Civil Rights Movement.

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Repeat the Question: Is Disinformation a Required Part of Living in a Democracy?

Repeat the Question: Is Disinformation a Required Part of Living in a Democracy?

There’s a bad idea masquerading as a principled commitment to free speech. We know we have a disinformation problem, but we have yet to decide what we can do to fight against it.

In the days following the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Twitter took action against misinformation by banning President Trump. One study measured that misinformation declined by 73% on that platform as a result. This decision also spurred an effort to remove QAnon accounts promoting false claims of election fraud. Then came the complaints of censorship and that “big tech” had steamrolled the First Amendment.

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We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.

—Carl Sagan

We love smart quotes and quotes about being smart. Add something to think about to your daily scroll.