By Brody Bassett ’25 (DCI Fellow)
Going into my first semester as a facilitator with the Deliberative Citizenship Initiative, I was excited to hopefully help people hear different opinions. I hoped to help facilitate discussion to break people out of potential “echo chambers,” so there could be more understanding between opposing viewpoints on and off Davidson’s campus.
After my first week of facilitations, I was pleased with the development of the deliberations. The members of my group were openly conversing about their opinions and viewpoints. During the first session, I was able to see the different perspectives within the groups. These different perspectives led to differing political beliefs which were talked about during the discussion. I was happy to see that my deliberation team engaged with each other despite their differences in opinion.
One of the first deliberation topics of my session brought about a specific voting option: mail-in voting. People certainly had different opinions about this option and its effects on the overall electoral process. Specifically, one person voiced the opinion that mail-in voting leads to a potential for less integrity within the voting system. Another individual from the deliberation voiced their own belief that mail-in voting allows more accessibility for working-class Americans. The two then began to weigh the pros and cons of the mail-in voting system, each expressing their own opinions. I was happy to facilitate this discussion, and both parties productively expressed their opinions while other members began to weigh in as well, leading to a fruitful exchange of ideas. My first facilitation lived up to my expectations as people shared different viewpoints, exposing each other to different opinions. In my next facilitation, however, the conversation did not follow my expectations.
As stated above, I was committed to being a facilitator of deliberation groups to hopefully show people different perspectives on politically contentious topics. I frankly did not realize the potential of deliberation groups to change people’s opinions on political topics. As facilitators, we don’t expect our group’s participants to necessarily alter their views on these topics; we are more focused on encouraging listening, sharing, and exploring new ideas together. So my expectations were broken when I was pleasantly surprised that one of my D Team members humbly started our time by admitting that they conceded their viewpoint from the last deliberation. The member recounted specific details from the opposing point of view, leading them to the conclusion that they might be wrong. They shared this revelation with the group and thanked everyone for the discussion that helped change their viewpoint.
Following my second meeting with my D Team, I was impressed by the humility and the bravery the individual took to let go of their views and acknowledge to a group their change in opinion. This interaction showed me that deliberation groups were more than just tools to break people from their “echo chambers,” and that deliberations could bring people to accept new ideas. While not all the members of D Teams will come forward to share their change in opinion, the environment of a deliberation group does allow for the change of opinions in a healthy space. We shouldn’t expect it but it does happen and I was very pleased to see it firsthand.