Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Threat of Civility?

Is incivility defensible? Special Forum guest blogger Rosanne Thomas of Boston-based Protocol Advisors, Inc. reflects on the uncivil response to Jon Stewart's call for respectful public discourse. 

Jon Stewart has called for a restoration of respectful public discourse through a "Million Moderate March," scheduled for October 30 in Washington. One cannot argue with the merits of such a pursuit or malign the person who proposed it, can one?

Apparently, one can and many have. Actual defenses of incivility as just "the way to get things done" are lumped in with personal attacks upon Mr. Stewart that include references to his heritage, his intelligence, his leanings, his motives, his audience and the success (read failure) of an event that will not be held for another month. Really? For suggesting respectful discourse? It would seem a "rally to restore sanity" is coming in the nick of time.

The purpose of the March, says Mr. Stewart, is to counter "the minority of 15 percent to 20 percent of the country that has dominated the national political discussion with extreme rhetoric." He holds both major political parties accountable for their roles in the discussion. In calling for the rally, Mr. Stewart has imposed upon himself a very high standard. For his own credibility and to achieve his goal, he will need to both model civility and maintain an apolitical stance, not necessarily an easy thing to do for someone with strong opinions. Yet, it can be done, and if done well, will provide a workable template for us all.

In the meantime, some simple thoughts on promoting public discourse include:
  • To be respected, one must respect
  • To be heard, one must listen
  • To be understood, one must strive to understand
  • To teach, one must be willing to learn

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Jon Schnur Joins Panel for CT Forum on Education

We are thrilled to share that
Education Reform Pioneer &
CEO, New Leaders for New Schools
will be a panelist at Our Great Education Challenge on Thursday, November 11, 2010.  He will join fellow panelists Davis Guggenheim, director of the highly anticipated film Waiting for "Superman" and Joel Klein, chancellor of New York City schools.

Jon Schnur is CEO and co-founder of New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS), the largest organization in the nation for recruiting and training urban principals. He has served as an advisor to Barack Obama's Presidential campaign, a member of the Presidential Transition Team, and a senior policy advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Schnur has developed national education policies from preschool to higher education - with special focus on teacher and educator quality, reforming urban school systems, charter schools, after-school programs, and early learning and preschools. He believes that quality education for all children is achievable, essential, and urgently needed to create a better future for our nation and world.

Schnur's national non-profit organization, NLNS, recruits and trains about ten percent of the new principals needed for high poverty, low-income schools in the United States. In September 2009, NLNS became the first and only non-profit-led partnership with a public school system to win Harvard University's Innovations in Government Award from the ASH Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation. NLNS has one mission: driving high levels of learning and achievement for every student by attracting and preparing outstanding leaders and supporting the performance of the urban public schools they lead at scale.

Before co-founding NLNS, Schnur served as Special Assistant to Secretary of Education Richard Riley, President Clinton's White House Associate Director for Educational Policy, and Senior Advisor of Education to Vice President Gore.

Schnur graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. in Politics with honors, took coursework at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Harvard Business School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government and graduated from a Wisconsin public high school.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm Sorry: The Art of the Apology

Special Forum guest blogger Rosanne Thomas, certified etiquette and protocol consultant and founder of Boston-based Protocol Advisors, Inc., reflects on non-apology apologies and helps us say we're sorry like a pro.
Where civility is concerned, a bad apology---and we know it when we hear it--is truly worse than no apology at all. The reproachful, "I'm sorry if you were offended." The take-no-personal-blame, "Errors were made." The accusatory, "I'm sorry, but you...." The discounting, "I was only joking!" Politicians, sports figures and entertainers have all been known to issue such non-apologies, and we've probably done so ourselves. Those on the receiving end of these "apologies" feel less than satisfied and rightfully so. The issuer is trying to have it both ways: to go on record as having done the right thing, but to leave wiggle room and save face at the same time. It doesn't work.

Why people shy away from honestly apologizing is a mystery. The sincere apology is an incredibly powerful, yet woefully underused tool. A true apology saves relationships, rights wrongs and shows strength (not weakness). It allows us to be human: to make a mistake, to own up to it and to move on. It also allows others to forgive, a good practice, as inevitably we will all need to be forgiven.

So what are some elements of a good apology?
  • It is delivered as soon as possible, through appropriate means, i.e., via email, telephone call, personal note, in person, through a gift, etc. The seriousness of the breach determines the means: forgetting to return a call is one thing; forgetting to attend a dinner in your honor another entirely.
  • It specifically acknowledges the inconvenience or harm caused, and how this must have made the person feel.
  • It is unequivocal; no ifs, ands or buts about it.
  • It recalls no past grievances.
  • It includes a promise to try and not let it happen again.
Sincere apologies are very likely to accepted, paving the way for stronger relationships and more civil discourse.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Waiting for "Superman" Director Davis Guggenheim Joins CT Forum Education Panel

Davis Guggenheim

Exciting news!
Director of the highly anticipated film
Waiting for Superman, as well as
An Inconvenient Truth
will be a panelist at our upcoming Forum,
Our Great Education Challenge , on November 11, 2010.

He will join fellow panelist Joel Klein, chancellor of New York Public Schools, and other panelists to be announced soon.

Davis Guggenheim is an American film director and producer who is perhaps best known for directing and producing An Inconvenient Truth, the Academy Award winning documentary about global warming.

His most recent documentary, Waiting for "Superman" explores the ways in which the American public education system is failing our nation’s children, and the roles that charter schools and education reformers could play in the future. Guggenheim sees dysfunction in our schools and in the politics around them. “Why can’t there be a great school for every kid in America? It just doesn’t make sense to me. That’s why I made this movie.” His hope for the film is to “engage real people to get involved in the subject so that we can create enough political will to change our system.”

Earlier in his career, Guggenheim focused on the challenging first year of several novice public school teachers in The Los Angeles public school system in his documentary films, The First Year and Teach. He made these films to address the tremendous need for qualified teachers in California and nationwide, to create awareness of the crisis in our schools, and to inspire the next generation to become teachers.

His other film and television credits as a producer and director include Training Day, The Shield, Alias, 24, NYPD Blue, ER, Deadwood, and Party of Five. In 2009, he directed and produced a documentary It Might Get Loud, about the history of the electric guitar and careers and styles of Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White.

He lives in California with his wife, actress Elisabeth Shue, and their three children.