Miami Valley School hosts symposium on civil discourse

The Miami Valley School hosted a symposium recently on civil discourse in an attempt to help students become better at being self-sustaining learners and compassionate global citizens.

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School officials wanted to develop a way to supply students with the skills of civil dialogue in the wake of growing social and political rancor.

The result was a scheduled three-part symposium series, the first of which focused on why civil discourse is important in schools, the community and the world.

“Given the current political division in our country, this is a fitting time for our students to learn to use their voices to share their voices as well as to be skilled listeners to those with different perspectives,” explained Head of School Elizabeth Cleary. “Dayton has a long history as a city of peace and diplomacy. This year’s symposium is a part of that history.”

Mohamed Al-Hamdani, attorney and managing member at Larson, Lyons & Al-Hamdani, LLC, told students attending the session that it is important for them not to pay attention to anything that will foster negativity.

“Don’t let the noise you are hearing from us adults get in the way,” Al-Hamdani said. “I believe your world is going to be so much better than ours. I really believe that.”

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Rabbi Judy Chessin of the Temple Beth Or impressed upon students to use the art of listening to help themselves become better engage with others.

“The whole idea of listen emphatically is that when we listen emphatically, it’s not to change you, it’s to hear me, and it’s so I can hear your side,” she said.

The follow-up event in February will be an all-day workshop to train students and faculty on how to successfully and respectfully engage in civil discourse, according to school officials.

The third session will take place in April with a final event designed and led by students.

“This event will address the steps for the school to take in order to continue the dialogue as we move into an election year,” Cleary said.

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Panel participants

The Miami Valley School’s civil discourse discussion panel featured:

• Rev. Sandy McConnel, board member and former minister of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

• Rabbi Judy Chessin, of the Temple Beth Or, Dayton.

• Vipal Patel, federal prosecutor and the First Assistant United States Attorney for U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.

• Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

• Karen M. R. Townsend, president KTownsend Consulting.

• Yann Luissiez, head of school, Desert Academy.

• Mohamed Al-Hamdani, attorney and managing member at Larson, Lyons & Al-Hamdani, LLC.

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