Ceasar McDowell: Building Our Muscle for Democracy (2021)

Chalk Radio, Season 2, Episode 8 (31:05), MIT OpenCourseWare, 3 June 2021

Episode Summary

Has our democracy adapted to the complex realities of today's modern, largely urbanized America? In this episode, MIT Professor Ceasar McDowell shares how he’s helping students design better, more equitable public conversations.

Episode Notes

The classic New England town meeting, with voters gathered in a large hall to decide issues directly, is often cited as the purest form of American democracy. But historically, those town meetings gave a voice only to certain classes of people. In this episode we meet Ceasar McDowell, Professor of the Practice of Community Development at MIT and newly appointed associate director of MIT’s Center for Constructive Communication. Prof. McDowell has devoted his career to nurturing a more vibrant, inclusive democracy, one adapted to the complex reality of a modern, largely urbanized America. In his course 11.312 Engaging Community (coming soon to OpenCourseWare), he helps his students use the tools of civic design to craft forms of community engagement and decision-making that will bring everyone into the conversation, even those on the margins of our society. In keeping with his commitment to collaborative effort, Prof. McDowell encourages his students to propose specific real-life problems they’re interested in, and to decide collectively which ones to address in the class. “We have to learn to talk to each other,” he says. “Yes, this is hard work, and yes, you can do it.” 


Timeline: 2020s
School: School of Architecture and Planning
Department: Urban Studies and Planning
Career: CommunityGovernment & Law
Object: Audio
Collection: Curricula, Faculty, Rising Voices 1995-Present