Fox Cities, it’s time for a talk. A real talk — face to face — this time. A talk about what’s going on in our communities. No more petty or hateful social media fights.
That’s the goal of Allyson Watson of the University of Wisconsin-Extension, which is hosting six sessions this spring and summer on our society’s ongoing political and cultural issues like the opioid crisis, use of social media, food insecurity in America, the economy and criminal justice.
Watson’s goal is to bring greater awareness to these issues for attendees and to give them tools to engage in civil conversations.
It’s something our communities (and society) genuinely need. Take one look at the comments section of any news story or Facebook feed, and it’s obvious. People aren’t getting along. Oftentimes, they aren’t even using the same set of facts to evaluate ideas or policies.
“We’re not going to solve world issues or change the world in one evening, but I’m hoping it brings greater consciousness of how attendees communicate with others,” she told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.
“The goal of the evening is not to do what we’re always tempted to do online — to argue or to persuade. The goal of the evening is to have a conversation, to say we talked with strangers about really challenging topics and we were able to have a civil conversation.”
Watson knows talking with strangers about these topics will most likely be uncomfortable. We’ve been taught for years to avoid talking about politics or religion in public or with strangers for fear of being rude or abrasive.
But talking through problems and working together to find solutions is at the root of our country’s history, Watson said.
“It’s a sign of wanting things to get better for us, admitting we are imperfect and perhaps talking through (issues) is the best way to do it,” she said.
I agree. I hope you do too, and attend one or multiple of Watson’s events. If online comment boards and social media are any indication, these conversations are well overdue.
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, March 5: “Encouraging Conversation in the Age of Social Media.” Session will be at Neenah Public Library, 240 E. Wisconsin Ave.
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, April 2: “What Should We Do About the Opioid Epidemic?” Session will be at Neenah Public Library, 240 E. Wisconsin Ave.
6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, May 7: “How Should We Ensure that People Have the Food They Need?” Session will be at Neenah Public Library, 240 E. Wisconsin Ave.
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21: “What Should We Do About the Opioid Epidemic?” Session will be at Appleton Public Library, 225 N. Oneida St.
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 19: “How Should We Prepare for the New Economy?” Session will be at the Appleton Public Library, 225 N. Oneida St.
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 16: “How Should Communities Reduce Violence?” Session will be at the Appleton Public Library, 225 N. Oneida St.
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