School and Civil Discourse with Bob Petix (002)

Peter Horn and Bob Petix

Peter Horn and Bob Petix

The current state of political discussion shows that somebody's got to provide a place for people to learn to listen and challenge each other respectfully. Speaking from 26 years of experience as a high school principal, Dr. Robert G. Petix shares some ideas about the importance of learning civil discourse for citizens, as well as the difference between really leading a school and merely managing it.

Great thanks to Kevin Johnson, Al Morales, Shayfer James, Gregory Horn, Warren Hynes, Roy Chambers, and Robyn Horn for their assistance in helping me produce this episode. Songs sampled for intro ("Weight of the World") and outro ("Villainous Thing") from Counterfeit Arcade by Shayfer James. Used with permission, and available for listening and purchase at

Episode Structure

Act 1: Establishing and Maintaining a Culture of Learning That Takes Kids Seriously (including Preparing Students

to Contend with Controversy, Hard Conversations, and Differencesof Perspective (06:28)

SIDEBAR: Interpretation vs. Analysis (19:25)

Act 2: The Role of the Principal, and Leading vs. Managing (23:57)

For more details, check transcript and supplementary materials. 

"Summertimes" by Al Morales.

"Summertimes" by Al Morales.



For reasons described within, the soundscape of this episode samples 10 different versions of George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward's classic song "Summertime." The full versions appear as playlists on the podcast's YouTube channel. (There's also a YouTube version of the podcast audio for people who prefer this format.)

In Act 1, we discuss the formation of the first Gay-Straight Alliance in Union County, New Jersey, at Westfield High School. Hit the button for more information about the WHS GSA, and how to support LGBTQ students in your school.

We also discuss The Lysistrata Project, a worldwide demonstration against the second (and ongoing) War in Iraq. Here's the original article in the school newspaper, from March, 2003.

If you're interested in promoting civil discourse in your school, here are some ways to get started: 

This article on engaging students as citizens was translated for use in the National Teachers Exam of France.

The following article takes up the topic of individual perspective, and why our interpretations of the world always include some degree of bias.

Peter Horn