Why Tough Conversations Matter: Democratic Preparation and America’s Schools

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Presented by the Institute for Education Policy and the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University

How can teachers and school leaders nurture students’ civic capacities? We can help them learn to engage with controversial issues, examine multiple perspectives on a given subject, and form thoughtful judgments over time. International research suggests that normalizing classroom debate and deliberation has an outsized, positive effect on civic outcomes later in life. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done, particularly in today’s toxic political climate. The school year has begun—just in time for the most contentious election cycle in recent memory. Now more than ever, we need to equip young people with the political knowledge, political skills, habits of engagement, and civil tolerance that alone sustain democratic society.

Johns Hopkins University has created a suite of toolsto help schools assess and improve their civic culture.  The October 8th webinar will focus on two of them: School Culture 360™ and Election 2020: Engaging Students in Civic Discourse. 


  • Raj Vinnakota, President, Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
  • Ashley Berner, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and SNF Agora Visiting Fellow
  • Kelly Siegel-Stechler, Research Fellow, Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and SNF Agora Visiting Fellow