Civil Discourse


What kind of society do we have where a class has to be offered for political civil discourse? One of the outcomes of the shooting in Tuscon where Rep. Giffords and others were shot is the University of Arizona in Tuscon is starting a “Civility Institute” and will offer classes and seminars in political civil discourse. We have to take classes to learn how to be speak nicely to each other? Sure, in high school we had debate classes and in college we took speaking classes. You’d think that politicians would remember at least some of what they learned there.

But, nope. News programs are focused on sensationalism instead of journalism because it “sells” better.Who wants to watch two political opponents being nice to each other during a debate? Even the Weather Channel is more about drama than the weather.

Dr. Milward said the institute would focus on political disagreements “from the grass roots all the way to the top.”

“In a great democracy, it’s important for people to hold fast to principles, but at the same time to understand where they might be able to compromise,” he said.


Mr. DuVal, who was a friend of Ms. Giffords’s and was a co-chairman of her finance committee, said he hoped the institute would be one way the nation could work toward such a goal. One of the first steps, he said, would be to attempt defining “best practices and corrosive practices.”

“How do we nurture robustness on one hand and not in any way chill speech, and keep it in bounds that are not destructive to democracy?” he said. “Will it change the nature of dialogue? That will be a tall order.”


I don’t mind arguing during a debate. It can reveal flaws as well as the beauty and truth in your point. Or theirs.

I think one of the things that has created this kind of separation between common decency and our words is the creation of the internet and it’s many outlets. On a forum, no one knows you are sitting in your robe or in a cafe (hopefully not both at once). You can say what you want because no one really knows who you are. That feeling of anonymity flows over into places where we are known. Sensationalism eggs us on. A chart with crosshairs over your “enemies” isn’t really violence or promoting violence. It is a visual imagery representing your goals. It is your site so you can limit who can contribute and no real debate takes place. Only your side is presented. You don’t have to be nice. Why should you? Would Palin have told Gifford to her face in a civil discussion that she considers her to be within her group’s crosshairs? The she considers Gifford worthy of elimination, not just defeated in an election?

It’s not just the politicians who need to attend any classes they may have. We all need to learn how to discuss things as rational beings. From Westboro representatives protesting at funerals to politicians denying civil rights, common decency is going extinct.