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These Kids Are Learning How to Have Bipartisan Conversations
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Greater Good

Greater Good, December 4, 2018
Posted: December 10th, 2018

Dozens of high schoolers and their teachers are flowing into the University of Southern Californias Galen Center, dressed in their debating best and bantering in various languages. All of these students are members of the Junior State of America (JSA), and theyre used to spirited exchanges about government. But theyre here today to practice a different diplomatic skill: having thoughtful conversations across political boundaries. People say, When I try to have these kinds of conversations, they go really badly, [workshop leader Brooke] Deterline says. Such verbal blowouts often breed simmering resentment and fracture relationships. Deterline wants to teach people how to cultivate compassion for others even when they dont agree with them, which she sees as necessary for a divided country to find a shared vision for its future. From the start, Deterline makes clear that what shes about to teach is the conversational equivalent of tai chia philosophy focused on holding back, not charging forward. I used to think courage was giving somebody a piece of my mind, she tells the students. Its acting with an open heart in the face of conflict. It is a choice, and it also is a muscle. What often shuts down conversations across the political aisle, she explains, is when our brains go into what she calls the red zone. When were stressed, our natural compassion is cut off, she says. Deterlines core message is that when you notice your brain heading into the red zone, you can take steps to divert its course.

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