I’ve written before about Hi From The Other Side, a website envisioned and developed by a former student of mine in 2016, along with two of his “more techie” friends. Hi From The Other Side matches up people with differing views, introduces them, and helps them start a respectful conversation with one another. In their words, “We pair nice people across the political divide to talk like neighbors. Not to convince, but to understand.” When asked about who sponsors the site and whether it is nonpartisan, the website explains that “this wasn't an initiative from a political organization or anything, just people who care about being better listeners.” And they have had a great deal of success in bringing people together. I’ve also written about Living Room Conversations, another site started to help bridge differences and enable better listening and understanding. This is a “transpartisan” group founded in 2010 and dedicated to “realizing civil discourse through conversation.”
Now comes AllSides, another effort to broaden understanding and promote respectful, civil discourse. AllSides is a multi-faceted site, offering news from across the political spectrum and labeling news items as “right,” “center,” or “left.” Providing differing perspectives on topics helps readers see them from several angles and thus expand their thinking about the topic. In addition, like Hi From The Other Side and Living Room Conversations, AllSides provides avenues for bringing people together for respectful discussions. They describe, for example, how their “Mismatch program and civil dialogue partnerships provide opportunities for respectful conversations with people across divides. Listen, be heard, and converse with your political ‘other’ in a respectful way.”
Most intriguing to me is their latest program, AllSides for Schools. Launched in 2019 in partnership with Living Room Conversations and The Mediators Foundation, this nonprofit group is in
response to the needs of teachers who seek to address a double crisis in the classroom of decayed media literacy skills and atrophied abilities to communicate outside the safe filter bubbles students [have] created for themselves in person and on social media. . . . AllSides for Schools provides a more comprehensive digital media literacy experience by centralizing and expanding resources for teachers who want to bring lessons on news literacy, critical thinking, and conversation across difference into the classroom.
I’ll admit to being near despair many times during the last three and a half years, as I’ve watched what counts for a national conversation deteriorate into a shouting match (at best). But sites and programs like these three have sprung up in response to that situation, showing that when people of good will and sound ethics put their minds to it, they can provide alternatives to the despair and the shouting matches. I hope they will lift our spirits as well—and give you additional resources to use in your own classrooms!
Image Credit: Pixabay Image 3649196 by Alexas_Fotos, used under the Pixabay License