Aftab Erfan Publishes Op Ed on Making Conversation Possible in The Conversation Canada

April 29, 2024

Post-secondary campuses have been identified as spaces for holding conversations on difficult and divisive issues like the Hamas-Israel war. But those of us working on campuses also know heated conversations can be extra heated where youthful certainty meets academic freedom.

Our executive director recently published an op-ed in The Conversation, where she reflects on a 2015 experience of hosting a dialogue on the conflict in the Middle East. Through this reflection, she emphasizes:

  • The value of experiential learning and "dialogic education," where students actively engage in dialogue on difficult topics
  • The importance of creating a conducive environment for dialogue through "dialogic containers" such as setting up the room and negotiating group agreements 
  • How learning skills to dialogue is less like developing awareness and more like building a muscle 
  • The challenges of facilitating discussions on contentious topics but also the potential benefits, such as providing space for different perspectives and fostering humanizing connections 

The article concludes with a call for exercising our dialogue muscles:

“The capacity to be together is important to pick up while we are students, lest we think that online screaming matches or acts of despair and total disengagement are our only options. As difficult as it is to remain in conversation on something as divisive as the Hamas-Israel war, as an educator I hope we remain on the lookout for the right time to get back into talking with each other about this on our university campuses.” 

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