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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Choosing Civility

silhouette of two people facing each other with lots of question marks in between them
Image from Pixabay
There are so many upsetting and terrifying things going on in the world.  Yesterday's school shooting weighs heavily on us all.  Discussions of sexual harassment by admired authors and illustrators are disheartening.  International and domestic tensions are serious.  People are made homeless by war, natural disaster, and personal calamity.  In our own communities, people are affected by all of this. 

I've been reading Bren√© Brown's most recent book, Braving the Wilderness:  The Quest for  True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.  It fits well with a project I've been noodling around with (with the help of some librarians in IFLS-land) for several months, trying to come up with some way to encourage civic dialogue and civil conversation for libraries--look for more coming on that by summer time. And if you want to lend a hand or a mind, let me know that, too!

Brown argues that the abandonment of nuance in favor of a "you're with us or you're against us" mentality is one of the true challenges of our era.  She warns against dehumanizing others--no matter how upset or angry you are with them.  I must admit that sometimes I find this difficult, when public figures or politicians do things that are heartless, ill-informed, or downright dangerous.  Being angry and afraid and doing something about it is good.  Dehumanizing the people who I'm angry with is less productive. 

What does all this have to do with youth?  EVERYTHING!  Kids and teens need a place to learn how to civilly engage with people who don't agree with them.  A place where it is acceptable to be curious and where deep listening is modeled and encouraged.  A place where they can learn about people and issues and ideas and learn to evaluate information and sources.  Libraries seem like a natural resource for kids, parents, and other adults who are seeking a way through this tricky landscape.  Things like book discussions, displays, and one-on-one conversations are all things libraries and librarians do every day, and are examples of ways to help kids and families learn about productively engaging with each other.

What are you doing in this area?  I'd love to hear about it!

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