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Can We Talk?

Can We Talk?

The Can We Talk? program offers college students a chance to be part of structured, moderated dialogues that foster insight and defuse polarization.

Past participants have called it "the best political discussion I've ever had" and "refreshing and eye-opening."

The Center for Civil Discourse at Drexel's Pennoni Honors College is pleased to be taking over sponsorship of Can We Talk? beginning this fall.

Two dialogues are scheduled for the fall term, both at Bentley Hall, scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 25. This one will be an in-person event for students from Drexel and Philadelphia-area campuses.
  • Thursday, Nov. 17. This will be a hybrid event, with students participating both in person and via Zoom, creating an opportunity for students from around America to join in with Drexel students.

Can We Talk? is in its seventh year. Formerly based at the University of Pennsylvania, it has brought together more than 500 college students from more than 30 colleges and universities.

The format was designed by the PA Project for Civic Engagement (PPCE), which leads the sessions.

The sessions begin with an in-depth review of Can We Talk?'s nine ground rules for productive dialogue. All participants assent to abiding by the ground rules, which provide tips that students can use later on in class, online, at work and with family and friends.

Then the students are divided into smaller discussion groups of 5-7 people, each led by an experienced moderator, some of whom are students trained by PPCE.

The moderator guides the breakout group through an icebreaker and a set of 4-6 discussion prompts, based on current public issues of particular interest to students. Can We Talk? has a student advisory panel that helps choose topics and craft the discussion prompts. The program does not shy away from controversial issues such as immigration and cancel culture, but frames them in a way that fosters good dialogue.

The forum ends with a plenary session where students from the different breakouts compare observations and insights.

In evaluations, students have given Can We Talk? scores of 8.7 out of 10 for being "valuable" and 9 out of 10 for whether they'd recommend it to a friend.

The SNF Paideia Program at the University of Pennsylvania is a co-sponsor of this fall's events.

 

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