Toward a More Perfect Union in an Age of Diversity: A Guide for Building Stronger Communities Through Public Dialogue

Publication date – 1997
Developed by – Everyday Democracy (formerly known as Study Circles Resource Center), in collaboration with A More Perfect Union, a project of Arcadia Pictures

Aims, objectives, and intended audience

Following a study circles approach, which involves 10-15 community members gathering regularly to democratically discuss and examine critical issues from a variety of perspectives, this dialogue guide invites participants into community-wide dialogue. Toward a More Perfect Union in an Age of Diversity explores issues such as self-identity, the formation of ingroup/outgroup distinctions, our cultural heritage, and the underlying bonds that unite us as Americans. The final session encourages action for making a difference in participants’ local community.

Broad structure and key educational methods

This guide contains material for four sessions, though no guidance is given regarding session length. Most of the sessions rely on participants sharing their personal experiences and building connections in the group through storytelling. Each session is accompanied by a segment of a discussion-starter video (Toward a More Perfect Union) designed to provide additional perspectives to the discussion. Alternatively, an hour long documentary, Talk to Me: Americans in Conversation may also be used with this discussion guide. Both films were produced by Arcadia Pictures.

Key topics or themes by module

1. Who Are We? The Many Faces of America

This session centers on a question: “Why do we describe ourselves and each other in so many different ways?” Through dialogue, participants are invited to tell their stories in an effort to understand each other. Additional topics include a discussion of the identity labels applied by others and used by participants themselves and the role of cultural heritage in one’s life.

2. Bonds and Boundaries: Looking at our Communities

Based on the understanding that groups create both bonds and boundaries, this session allows participants to consider what it means to be an insider and an outsider in different situations and locations. Participants share personal stories based on the groups with which they identify as well as their experiences in the broader community.

3. Visions of America: What Ties Us Together?

This discussion material invites participants to articulate their vision of America and what it means to be an American. The guide provides seven short viewpoints on the meaning of being an American in a time of great diversity. Participants consider these views and engage in conversations regarding shared values and connectedness.

4. Making a Difference: What can we do to build a stronger community in an age of diversity?

This final session encourages participants to take the insights they have gleaned over the course of these dialogues and work to make a difference in their community. The materials contain lists of suggested ways to make an impact as individuals, in homes and neighborhoods, and in the larger community. Participants uplift public concerns where diversity issues may arise and discuss how they can help the community address these issues constructively.

Toward a More Perfect Union in an Age of Diversity also contains extra readings, suggested resources for further discussion and action, and a list of organizations that are working to build community.

Curriculum acquisition information

This dialogue guide is available as a free download on Everyday Democracy’s Issue Guide Exchange. Accessing the document requires registering for a free account.

It is also available at the following sites:

Everyday Democracy  (formerly Study Circles Resource Center)
111 Founders Plaza, Suite 1403
East Hartford, CT 06108
Phone: 860-928-2616
Fax: 860-928-3713