Election 2020: Creating Environments for Civil Discourse and Dialogues Across Differences

Thursday, April 30, 2020
Location: Virtual, using Zoom
9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Presented and Facilitated by Kent Lenci, Consultant, Martha Neubert, Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice, Northfield Mount Hermon School, and Robert Munro, Director of Global Education at Middlesex School


  • Welcome and Introductions: Becky Biggs, AISNE: 9:00 - 9:15 a.m.
  • Tools for Students and Teachers to Navigate Political Discourse: Kent Lenci: 9:15 - 10:45 a.m. (Break: 10:00 - 10:15 a.m.)
  • Break: 10:45 - 11:00 a.m.
  • Peer Perspective: The VOTES Project at Northfield Mount Hermon School: Martha Neubert: 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
  • Lunchtime Conversation: 12:00 - 12:45 p.m.
  • Tools and Coursework for Students and Teachers to Dialogues Across Differences: Rob Munro: 12:45 - 2:30 p.m. (Break: 1:30 - 1:45 p.m.)
  • Peer Share: 2:30 - 2:45 p.m.
  • Reflections and Farewell: 2:45 - 3:00 p.m.

Registration Options

  • Full Day: $99 for members, $149 for non-members
  • Group Savings Rates apply when you register 3+ team members

Register Here

About This Workshop

Regardless of where you personally stand on the issues, political conversations these days are all too frequently turning contentious.

Join us for a robust day exploring tools and resources for creating environments that nurture civil discourse and support dialogues across differences.

In this workshop, attendees will:

  • Learn from three experts in this space, each with unique perspectives and experiences
  • Discuss and practice methods of encouraging dialogues across differences and creating safe spaces for civil discourse
  • Gain tools and resources for facilitating positivity within your school's community, specifically during this year's Presidential Election cycle
  • Hear how peer schools are approaching this opportunity and making progress moving in the desired direction of bridging differences and fostering mutual respect

This day will be especially powerful for middle and upper school teachers and administrators.

Morning Program Details

Tools for Students and Teachers to Navigate Political Discourse
Presented and Facilitated by Kent Lenci

When politics becoming polarizing, it becomes difficult to know what's safe to say or do. This is an especially uncomfortable dynamic within a school community, with the emphasis on speaking up for our ideas, interests and beliefs.

Join Kent Lenci, longtime educator and former recipient of a Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grant, for a dynamic morning focused on promoting civil discourse, particularly during the most challenging of times, such as high profile presidential elections.

  • Explore resources and organizations dedicated to helping adults and students reach across lines of idealogical differences
  • Practice civil discourse together
  • Role play messy situations that may arise at school

Peer Perspective: The VOTES Project at Northfield Mount Hermon School
Presented and Facilitated by Martha Neubert

Every four years, NMH faculty and students lead a nationwide presidential mock-election project for high school students. VOTES (Voting Opportunities for Teens in Every State) involves between 50,000 and 60,000 students who learn about the candidates, campaign for their favorites, and cast mock ballots a few days before the actual presidential election.

Their choices have accurately predicted the real election's outcome in six of the past eight presidential contests. And the involvement prompted by VOTES has lasting effects for some students. VOTES students from NMH have gone on to careers in national politics, polling, candidate advocacy, and law.

The project began in 1988, started by NMH history teachers, Jim Shea and Lorrie Byrom.

Afternoon Program Details

Tools and Coursework for Students and Teachers to Dialogues Across Differences
Presented and Facilitated by Robert Munro

Our afternoon will focus in on the significance of having difficult conversations across political differences. Despite some schools’ proclivity to not engage in political discourse out of fear of offending peers, this session will encourage you and your school to welcome these topics and take them on.

Tools and resources from two of Middlesex School's signature courses, Dialogues Across Differences, and Citizenship in Civil Societies will be provided as models toward this end.

About Our Facilitators

Kent Lenci is a longtime independent school educator and former recipient of a Margot Stern Strom Innovation Grant. Kent is now running his own consultancy.

Martha Neubert is Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Social Justice, Northfield Mount Hermon School. She is am a member of NMH’s senior leadership team and her work in the Office of Multicultural Affairs focuses on social justice initiatives and promoting an inclusive campus culture.

Robert Munro is Director of Global Education at Middlesex School. After completing his Ph.D. at Michigan State in 2012, Rob joined the Middlesex History Department. Along with his role as director of MxGlobal, he teaches courses in the history department, such as Ancient World History and West African History, and he has also taught upper-level seminars in African Philosophy, The Harlem Renaissance, and Global Studies. Robert developed and coordinates one of Middlesex’s signature academic programs: Dialogues Across Differences. This required, freshman course teaches students that positive learning and understanding come from having difficult conversations. Using contemporary academic and popular writings, students are introduced to important current events from around the world and the skills necessary to think through and discuss them. Robert lives on campus with his wife Sarah – who teaches Art History here at Middlesex – their daughters, and their dog. He coaches boys’ varsity squash in the winter and boys’ varsity tennis in the spring.