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Healthy Arguments: For the Sake of Argument Is Ready for This Moment

May 2nd, 2023

Founded on the belief that healthy arguments can be an important tool for learning and social growth, For the Sake of Argument (FSA) helps leaders and educators engage learners in open, trusting educational experiences. FSA’s materials, tools, and training – currently focused on Israel – spark healthy arguments in various settings, including homes, workplaces, synagogues, schools, and campuses. In its first year, more than 2,000 people have participated in FSA’s in-person or online workshops and courses.

It can be really hard to have a healthy argument with my peers and my family. I think one of the things we might take from it is listening…Not just jumping on someone, not just listening to respond, but actually listening, to engage and try and understand the conversation. I think my peers and I could benefit from taking a step back from a heated argument and being able to look at it from all sides.
Workshop Participant

As Israel faces deep internal divisions and political turmoil, FSA’s resources enable people to confront and discuss these challenges in  meaningful ways. Its book Stories for the Sake of Argument, includes 24 stories that provide opportunities to discuss some of the more controversial issues in Israel. FSA’s newest short story, Anything to Celebrate?, was released in advance of Yom Ha’atzmaut and grapples with the complexities of celebrating Israel at this time. Building on this, FSA will soon release a series of short stories that explore the proposed judicial reforms and the protests sweeping Israel. In the coming months, the organization also will release a short, theme-based curriculum for schools, youth movements, Hillels and other educational organizations to use in their settings and during their organization’s trips to Israel.

Many educators tend to stay clear of divisive issues so as not to cause unwanted conflict. But whether we like it or not, the topics of greatest interest today are also the most contentious. We lean into the arguments that arise when complexities are addressed rather than shying away from them. By harnessing the energy and passion contained in healthy arguments, we seek to create deep educational engagement.
Abi Dauber Sterne and Robbie Gringras, co-founders and co-directors of For the Sake of Argument

FSA offers many ways for educators and leaders to learn about this approach to education. A 90-minute introductory workshop models the FSA framework and tools, and in-depth courses for professionals provide a deeper mastery of engaging with contentious issues. FSA’s open online resource center has tips and specific language for healthy arguments, animated videos, and short written pieces sharing pertinent research. New stories cover all kinds of timely topics–Who is Welcome? delves into interfaith marriage and how different values affect family dynamics; Tweeting Israel covers the legitimacy of vocal criticism of Israeli politicians from Jewish leadership outside of Israel; and What is It All About? explores what Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Day means to different groups within Israeli society. FSA also offers consultations with individuals and organizations thinking about the role of arguments and disagreements in their work.

The session helped me to envision how facilitated conversations on Israel might play out in select communities who we are now approaching about hosting similar conversations. These would be less about navigating disagreement, and more about toeing into hard conversations about Israel.
Workshop Participant

While Israel education is the first subject matter on which FSA focuses, the organization may address others in the future, ranging from Jewish topics to broader non-sectarian issues. This year and next, FSA is researching the impact and educational effectiveness of different elements of its approach. As the research brings insights, FSA continues to hone its materials and tools and will structure and refine the ongoing direction and development of its work.

For more information, visit forthesakeofargument.org. The Jim Joseph Foundation is a supporter of For the Sake of Argument.