This spring the DCI is excited to host its eighth round of D Teams! The focus of the teams’ discussions will be on the three topics of major public concern related to education. Read more below to learn more — Registration for Spring 2024 D Teams is open from January 11th until January 25th, 2024 (Know you want to sign up? Register here.).
What are D Teams?
D Teams are small teams of about 6-10 people that meet three times per semester in order to discuss contentious topics in productive ways, and to pave the way toward catalyzing creative solutions to difficult problems in the public sphere. D Teams may meet in person or virtually.
A few things make the D Team experience unique compared to other discussions about controversial topics. First, D Team discussions are facilitated by a DCI Fellow who has been trained in the kind of facilitation that leads to good discussions. Second, D Team participants get access to deliberation guides designed specifically for each topic that they discuss. And third, D Teams provide an opportunity to connect meaningfully with others beyond one’s immediate social or professional circle. You can learn more about the background and structure of this program here.
It was my first DCI experience, and I was not sure quite what to expect. I was one of 2 non-students on our team, and part of the draw to participate was to hear and learn from current students how they think and feel about such a difficult, complex, politically-charged topic. It was an enlightening and encouraging experience; I came away more hopeful, and impressed by the DCI initiative.—D Team Participant
What are the topics of discussion for Spring 2024?
The Spring 2024 topics all relate, in one way or another, to the concept of education. D Teams will deliberate about public education and school vouchers, grades and standardized tests, and college admissions.
Education is something we all value to some extent, and yet we disagree about what kinds of education policies should be implemented. We disagree about the purpose of public education, about how to measure the effectiveness of our educational system, and who ought to be admitted to particular educational institutions. And the way we answer these questions depends on our ideas about the general aim of an education, the difference between public and private education, and perhaps even broader questions about justice, equality, and freedom.
In spring 2024, we will therefore be investigating education and its relationship with other values, while paying attention to the particular details each issue below presents. Spring D Team members will have the opportunity to discuss the following questions:
(1) Public Education and School Vouchers: When should parents be granted vouchers to pay for private schools, if ever?
This discussion will first focus on the purpose and function of public education: Why do taxpayer dollars go to support public schools? What are the motivations and expectations associated with this support? Then we will turn to the more specific topic of school vouchers, which enable students to use public money to attend private schools. The use of such vouchers has become increasingly common in recent years, and North Carolina recently expanded their use to allow a broader range of families to make use of them. D Teams will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of vouchers, who they may most benefit and most harm, and under what conditions they should be supported or resisted.
(2) Grades and Standardized Tests: How should student learning and excellence be assessed and measured, if at all?
Public and private school advocates share a common challenge – identifying to what extent educational institutions are accomplishing the goals they are designed to achieve. Grades and standardized tests are the most common means to measure student and school performance. In this discussion, participants will explore the strengths and limitations of both types of metrics, and they will discuss whether and in what contexts they are most useful and appropriate. They will also deliberate about what assessment policies students, teachers, parents, and policymakers should advocate for in both K-12 and higher education settings. This conversation will both build on the previous discussion about school vouchers and flow into the next one on college admissions.
(3) College Admissions: How should American colleges and universities make admissions decisions in the future?
In the summer of 2023, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the race-conscious admissions policies of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. This decision has led colleges and universities across the United States to reconsider how they will determine who is eligible for admission to their institutions. What new or different criteria should they use or weight more strongly given the Court’s prohibition against using race as a factor in admissions? D Teams will address this question by first discussing what the goals of admissions processes should be and then by deliberating about different strategies to achieve those goals.
Why did we choose these topics?
The DCI solicited feedback on potential topics that were suggested by the DCI Fellows and former D Team participants via a survey that was shared within the Davidson community and the DCI’s online community — our blog and newsletter subscribers and Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter followers. These topics were among the top choices that our survey respondents were interested in discussing, and they are all timely in their own ways. Finally, although the topics are substantively different, they all present an opportunity to engage with pressing public debate about education in America.
I was very grateful to have this kind of opportunity to have these conversations in a context where I knew I shared something with all other participants even though we are in many different stages and paths in life.—D Team Participant
How do I sign up?
Registration for spring 2024 D Teams is open from January 11th to 25th, 2024. Sign up today and help us build a better democracy, one conversation at a time.