Courageous Conversations Curriculum

Bring media literacy and active listening to middle school, high school, college and adult learners

Access the Complete Curriculum Here

When we first started Courageous Conversations in the spring of 2023, it was a time when levels of mistrust, fear, and suspicion were high. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security noted that white supremacists and other far right extremists have killed more people since September 11, 2001 than any other category of domestic extremism. Anti-government activists believe that by committing acts of violence, they can destabilize society by intensifying conflict between people and their government. The mass shootings in El Paso, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and many other cities made it clear that hateful ideologies were taking hold across the country.

We watched as more and more teens and young adult men turned their energy towards heinous forms of domestic terrorism, planning their attacks in online communities of like-minded people and then livestreaming their gruesome and tragic actions. To address this issue, it has become obvious that law enforcement efforts alone are simply not sufficient. We need a whole-of-society approach to transform the cultural conflicts that are promoting fear and hate.

We had an audacious idea to help restore public trust through a series of dialogue and discussion programs that build media literacy and active listening competencies. As we gathered a diverse group of stakeholders at the Rhode Island State House to launch our program, our colleagues explicitly warned us: Don’t get your hopes up. There was simply too much animosity between liberals and conservatives for meaningful dialogue to have much impact. You may remember that anger, hatred, and disrespect were rampant in our communities in the immediate aftermath of pandemic. Plus, the events of January 6th 2021 created deep divisions in every neighborhood and community in Rhode Island, around the country, and around the world.

But because people like to talk about media and technology, more than 700 people participated in one or more of our Courageous Conversations, taking time to learn, share, and reflect on the small actions we can take to dial down the hate. Research evidence from the program revealed that people experienced substantial knowledge gains and 75% of participants were able to apply what they learned to their everyday life in ways that had practical value to them.

The success of this program reaffirmed our faith in people’s desire to find common ground and prevent violence through active listening, media literacy, small acts of kindness and compassion, and community engagement. Courageous Conversations can be a powerful method of teaching and learning. With support from talented educators and experts who participated in the program, we’re proud to bring you the Courageous Conversations Curriculum. This book contains a collection of materials to help you bring media literacy and active listening into your middle school, high school or college classroom. You can use these activities in the workplace, faith community, or organization. Find common ground to prevent rising violence and extremism using the power of dialogue and discussion about media, technology, and society!