Terms of Engagement

Part I - How do we engage people in meaningful conversations about education?

We will use the framework - Stages of Public Thinking - to explore the question, "How do we engage people in meaningful conversations about education?"

Stage One: Consciousness Raising. People are just becoming aware of an issue and/or an issue seems intractable and thus not worth thinking about. People define the problem differently depending on their perspective. People hold conflicting values within themselves. Advocates are all over the map in terms of ideas and solutions.

Stage Two: Working Through. Consensus beginning to emerge that there is a problem or issue that needs to be addressed. Some general agreement about the parameters of the problem. Other priorities still dominate. Value choices brought into greater relief and conflict. Entrenched interests ratchet up efforts to shape agenda. Independent action on rise; concerted efforts nascent at best.

Stage Three: Resolution. General agreement about both definition of problem and possible solutions. Agreement on ways to balance value conflicts. Political will for action. Discussion is about how best to act. Advocates moving on to "unfinished business." Outrage fatigue can dissipate will to act.

Think about an education issue about which you would like to generate meaningful conversation. Consider these questions:
  • Which stage is people's thinking in?
  • What does that suggest about the kind of conversation you need to generate? Do you need to make people more aware of the issue? Do you need to help people work through the issue? Do you need to help people think about how best to take action?
  • Where and how can you engage people in these types of conversations?

Consider smoking as an example. At risk of over-generalizing, here is where public thinking was on smoking...
1940s - 1950s - Smoking is good for you.
1960s - 1980s - Consciousness Raising: Growing awareness, smoking is bad for individuals.
Late 1970s - early 1990s - Working Through: Smoking is bad for people. But do we really need a public response?
Late 1990s - 2000s - Resolution: Public action to limit smoking is needed. Bans on smoking in public places; more taxes on tobacco products; class action suit states v. tobacco companies. Activists expanding issues (e.g. second hand smoke) moving on to new issues (e.g. tobacco companies are evil.)

Consider the types of conversations generated through PSAs during these different stages of public thinking...

1949 - More Doctors Smoke Camel
1967 - Like Father, Like Son
1970s - John Wayne for American Cancer Society
1985 - Yul Brenner for American Cancer Society
People Die from Second Hand Smoke
Truth - Tough Love

Just for fun... Add better examples of Smoking Ads for each stage of public thinking.

Or, for even more fun... Add an example of another issue at different stages of public thinking.

Part II - How can we use social media platforms to frame, promote and enhance dialogue?

Some examples:

Littleton Public Schools blog
Indiana Department of Education on Facebook
Springdale (AR) School District on Facebook
Portland Public Schools on Facebook
St. Vrain Valley School District Superintendent Don Haddad on Twitter

Using the Colorado State Budget Crisis as an Example...
- In what stage of public thinking is this issue?

- Where are conversations about Colorado State Budget happening both on and offline?

The St. Vrain Valley School District February 3rd State Budget Cut Discussion from Silver Creek High School

Live blog example from St Vrain Valley School District Discussion

- What conversation platforms are most useful?

- Where do you see the most potential for using online platforms to promote and enhance dialogue about the Colorado State Budget?

- What are examples you've seen? What ideas can you imagine?

Suggestions and voting for City of Santa Cruz

- What does this example suggest for issues you are working on?

  • * *
Conversation Leaders - John Creighton, President St. Vrain Vally Board of Education with Scott Brown, Founder Social Information Group

John Creighton writes on community life and public leadership at johncr8on.com. He can be found on Twitter @johncr8on and on Facebook.

Scott Brown is an information specialist, librarian, coach and consultant. He can be found via Social Information Group, on Twitter @scbrown5 and @socialinfo and on Facebook.