POWER and LIMITATIONS of DIALOGUE
There are two parts this Program Covenant. The first covers
aspects unique to the "Power and Limitations of Dialogue" program. The
second concerns responsibilities assumed in any Evergreen program.
All programs of Evergreen depend (to a degree unmatched at other
schools) upon students' learning from each other. These "learning
communities" are a uniquely social way to learn, requiring that people
face each other directly, challenge each other, and allow themselves to
be challenged in unexpected ways.
This "Power and Limitations of Dialogue" program might well be described as a ten-week experiment in unprecedented and radical or respectful listening. Such an experiment is one of a few crucial pre-requisites to both assessing the power and limitations of dialogue and to improving our own dialogical skills and wisdom. "Methodological Doubting and Believing," an article by former Evergreen colleague Peter Elbow (on reserve at the library), is a good (though overly gentle) introduction to what will be asked of you.
The program is a learning community especially focused on understanding human differences, including and especially our deepest and most difficult and avoided differences. All members of this learning community, students and faculty, are expected to commit themselves to "conversations of respect" with persons different from themselves, to learn from these conversations, and to be as open to change of opinion and behavior as is humanly possible. It will not be acceptable to refuse to listen or to enter into conversations with particular persons because of differences of opinion, no matter how strongly held. It will also not be acceptable to exploit the experimental atmosphere of the class to dominate or browbeat others into listening to one's favorite theories on this or that side of the socio-political spectrum. Conversations of respect are two-way streets.
Conversations of respect between diverse persons or communities are characterized by intellectual reciprocity. They are ones in which the participants expect to learn from each other, expect to learn non-incidental things, expect to change at least intellectually as a result of the encounter. Such conversations are not animated by nor do they result in mere tolerance of the pre-existing diversity, for political or ethical reasons. In such conversations, one participant does not treat the other as an illustration of, or a variation of a truth or insight already fully possessed. There is no will to incorporate the other in any sense into one's belief system. In such conversations, one participant does not presume that the relationship is one of teacher to student (in any traditional sense of that relationship), of parent to child, of developed to underdeveloped. The participants are co-learners.
Conversations of respect cannot be based on mere tolerance--on the "live-and-let-live" or "to-each-his-own" attitudes of individualistic relativism. Such conversations need something at once more binding or relating of diverse viewpoints, and something that grounds the respect in a public sphere, in a world or situation that is at least temporarily shared. It is impossible to respect the diverse other if one does not believe that the views of the diverse other are grounded in a reality that binds or implicates everyone as much as do our own views.
The program does not assume that everyone or most everyone in this learning community is capable at the outset of conversations of respect. What this Covenant demands is a commitment to the effort. What it also demands is an effort from each student to help other students in making progress towards these conversations. In the midst of difficult conversations about racism or sexism or ageism, for example, all students will be expected to:
1. maintain a reflective and non-dogmatic approach to the study of cultures, ideologies and worldviews;
2. be willing to examine one's own cultural, philosophical, and political assumptions;
3. promote a cooperative, supportive atmosphere within the group that gives everyone the opportunity for learning;
4. give all persons opportunity and encouragement to speak. Interject only 20% of what you think it is abso- lutely necessary to say.
5. treat each person with kindness and respect,
especially when disagreeing with that person's ideas and feelings;
6. allow each person to make mistakes, more than one
mistake, and provide feedback on those mistakes in a manner which does not make further conversation impossible or less likely.
While the rhythm of the program will expose all students to many
challenging thoughts, it is the special responsibility of the faculty to
conduct class in such a manner that no one will be intentionally embarrassed
or be forced to participate in any dialogue that they judge unmanageably
Special Responsibilities of Students:
Work seriously in the program. The College's expectation --not peculiar to this program--is that the each student invest 35 hours of classroom/group meetings or directed-study work and 70 hours of outside-classroom reading/research and preparation per quarter per 4 hours of credit.
Maintain a record of your work in the "Work Log" section of your "Program Portfolio" as described in detail in the Program Syllabus.
Attend and be actively involved in all program sessions unless
prevented by sickness or unforeseen and unavoidable outside responsibilities.
If possible, notify the instructor or a classmate in advance of such absences.
Arrive on time.
Given the nature of this class, absences and latenesses are serious matters. Everyone is entitled to three absences with legitimate excuse (as judged by you). Nonetheless, to keep you current with the class, even these excusable absences must be made up. How you have made up these absences should be written up in the tabbed section of the Program Portfolio called "Absences and Latenesses".
Absences beyond three and up to six need to be made up in a more thoroughly detailed fashion. Absences beyond six cannot be made up and will result in an automatic loss of credit at the schedule of 1 credit per absence.
Do all required reading and writing assignments. Use high standards in reading the texts and in preparing papers and comments in seminar.
Hand in all assignments on time.
Be willing to take thoughtful risks.
Be sensitive to and cooperative with the needs of people with
the schedules and responsibilities different from one's own.
Special responsibilities/pledges of the instructor:
Be on time and prepared for each class meeting.
Invest minimally one hour of one-on-one time in the course of the quarter with each student in the program.
Respond to each student as an individual.
While avoiding premature judgment or early harvesting, strive to provide early warning to students who might be in any danger of either losing credit or receiving a negative evaluation. Whenever possible, provide opportunities to students to correct shortcomings before they appear on an official evaluation.
Respond to all disputes with understanding and in the spirit of
A separate sheet, entitled "Program Covenant"will be circulated
in the first meeting of the class for all to sign.