With increasing threats to democracy, we call for communication educators to renew and re-examine their commitment to advancing civic engagement in the basic course. Given recent scholarly criticism that civic engagement pedagogies falsely present democratic practice as neutral or apolitical and reinforce the status quo, we set an agenda for basic course instructors to re-envision civic engagement through a more critical and equity-oriented approach. To aid that effort, we present a Critical Deliberation speech assignment that challenges student groups to prepare a 20–25-minute informative presentation about a public controversy and then lead their classmates in a 25-minute deliberative discussion. In this assignment, we maintain deliberation’s valuable lessons that help students co-create knowledge, identify across differences, and engage in participatory decision-making. Yet, we adapt common deliberative practices in the speech and discussion to attend more explicitly to systems of power, equity, and positionality in the deliberative process. In so doing, the assignment helps students to recognize varied social identities and inequity while perceiving themselves as part of a diverse public that must engage in collective decision-making.



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