Civil Discourse

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Civil Discourse

College campuses are unique spaces in our society. They are places where young adults learn to be citizens in a democracy, where they learn to take responsibility for the public square. In recent years, we’ve seen a renewed urgency to help students develop the skills and habits of civic engagement: how to understand and remain true to one’s own values and beliefs while making room and expending effort to understand people with different views. Ask Big Questions empowers campuses with a powerful method for creating healthier, more resilient public spaces—where students can talk and listen to one another, and develop the trust, understanding, and empathy necessary to live as neighbors and fellow citizens.

megaphone protest
"The ability to adopt equitable self-interest in one’s interactions with strangers is the only mark of a truly democratic citizen, and to employ the techniques of political friendship would be to transform our daily habits and so our political culture. Can we devise an education that, rather than teaching citizens not to talk to strangers, instead teaches them how to interact with them self-confidently?"
Danielle Allen
Talking to Strangers

Read About Our Work on Civil Discourse

Colby College Ask Big Questions

Colby College implemented an Ask Big Questions conversation series, which led to measurable gains in students’ sense of purpose and vocation.

Colby College Ask Big Questions

Colby College implemented an Ask Big Questions conversation series, which led to measurable gains in students’ sense of purpose and vocation.

Eboo Patel Ask Big Questions

I am a great admirer of the way Ask Big Questions helps students of all backgrounds to reflect together on questions we all share, and to build community by engaging our diversity. Ask Big Questions and IFYC share a common mission, and I am proud to call ABQ a partner.

Eboo PatelFounder and President
Interfaith Youth Core
Parker J. Palmer Ask Big Questions

Ask Big Questions is doing vital work to help American colleges and universities restore the soul of higher education. Through community conversations about Big Questions, students develop the habits of the heart that can help renew campus life and our larger civic fabric.

Parker J. PalmerFounder and Senior Partner
Center for Courage and Renewal
Sharon Daloz Parks Ask Big Questions

Our colleges and universities are essential training grounds for young adults to enter into their lives as citizens. But they often need help to do that work. Ask Big Questions is an outstanding initiative to aid colleges and universities do their transformative work.

Sharon Daloz ParksDirector
Leadership for the New Commons
listening student ask big questions

By the end of the conversation, I felt like I could carry on an interesting conversation with any of the people sitting before me. Because of that openness, we students were able to discard the 'prove the other person wrong' card. It enabled us to access a much more important skill, one with which we are losing touch: listening, with the sole intent of understanding.

University of Toronto student

Ask Big Questions helped me to learn how to listen to others both inside and outside of my communities and truly inspired me to become a deeper, more understanding, more giving and more complex person.

University of Michigan
Photo of Richard Wescott, Ph.D

Ask Big Questions is a great tool in helping students, as well as faculty and staff, to become comfortable with informed debate about issues that impact us all. ABQ’s staff engaged our students in thought-provoking and powerful ways. Their relaxed style and willingness to pull the audience in resulted in students’ openness to consider what matters to them and their role in making a difference.

Richard Wescott Ph.DPresident
Johnson & Wales University - Denver Campus

It was so interesting to see how just changing the way a question is asked makes a big difference in how people react to it.

Tufts University Student

Ask Big Questions showed me that by focusing conversations on questions, we can better come to terms with the different ways to see and understand issues that we all face.

West Virginia University Student

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