Lesson Plan

Dialogue vs. Debate: Philosophical Chairs

Colorful illustration of people chatting with speak bubbles above their heads


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Civics Lesson

GRADE LEVEL: High School

How is Dialogue Different than Debate?

Technology is enabling students to be increasingly aware of news and current events. Along with this increased awareness, we see more and more students becoming actively engaged in conversations around hot-button topics. While students often talk in digital spaces about current events that concern them, they also continue the conversation in person. When disagreements happen in those conversations, what do our students do? Bret Stephens, a journalist and author, wrote a piece for The New York Times arguing that we no longer know how to disagree with each other. He notes that in order for a democracy to prevail, its occupants must disagree and do so in a productive fashion.

About the Lesson Plan

During this lesson, students will gain skills for engaging in civil discourse while creating brave spaces for themselves, and those around them.




  • Develop skills for engaging in civil discourse on a debatable topic.
  • Cite evidence from an article to inform their position.
  • Reflect critically on their performance, and their peers’ performance, during the Philosophical Chairs dialogue.