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Breaking Through Gridlock: Polarization and Problem Solving

Winter 2021
Freshman - Senior
Class Size: 25
4 Credits per quarter
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Following the tumult of November elections, how do we begin moving from polarization to mobilization to solve problems in our civic, political, and personal lives?

How do we more fully grasp the complexity, history, and deep inequities involved in these questions? When do we do so, collectively and individually?

In this four-credit course, we will have limited time to delve into these deep questions. In addition to the elections themselves, we face innumerable and divisive issues. This course will help students choose an issue to begin excavating this quarter, and to further explore over time. In addition to our collective readings and seminars, students will draft and revise a keenly researched and focused paper on a narrow and meaningful issue of their choice.

Through the lens of Jay and Grant’s Breaking Through Gridlock: The Power of Conversation in a Polarized World, we will examine how to re-frame stories and tactics that inspire positive results and change. Harvard’s Marshall Ganz notes we must “polarize to mobilize, yet the goal is to strive for solutions. We will consider ways to solve problems around social justice, health, equity, and environmental issues.

We will examine our communication strategies and how we can be more effective at breaking down gridlock, particularly on a community level.

We will begin to examine how to take apart complex 'gridlock' melded over hundreds of years, the tentacles of which reach deeply into systemic racism, the climate crisis, and other entrenching social issues. Our text for this introductory work will be Our Time is Now,  by Stacy Abrams.

Finally, we will collect and compare reporting from disparate news media in order to reflect on the “gridlock” of messaging from contrasting sources.

We will discuss and consider whether restoration of vibrant local media might help restore more community-oriented focus.

Though the course is designed to be taught remotely, meaning that we will use Zoom and Canvas for our time together and critique work, we will have a close, engaged learning community. Evergreen has long been based on a model of engaged learning communities.

Students can expect our remote teaching to be around 3 hours of synchronous (scheduled) coursework per week, using Zoom and Canvas.

Required technology to be successful:  computer or equivalent, internet connection, access to Canvas and Zoom.  Our approach will emphasize participation in synchronous sessions; however, if students find themselves unable to participate due to technology, caregiving obligations, economic disruption, health risk, or illness, they can work with Faculty to pursue alternate options to earn program credit.


Winter 2021 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

(4): 20159

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First Meeting