Welcome to the seventh installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog.
Tomorrow, November 1st, Amanda Werner – best known as “The Monopoly Man” – will talk about balancing activism with one’s identity and career at an event hosted by the Project on Civil Discourse. Werner will speak at 6:00PM in Kerwin Hall Room 2 on American University’s campus. Their talk will be followed by small-group discussions about the topics raised; pizza will be provided. For more details or to RSVP, click here.
Do we need civility to fix our democracy? Michael Brenes argues that we don’t. In fact, incivility is necessary for revealing larger problems that must be addressed by politics, not civility. He writes: “Calls for civility historically are efforts to stifle struggles for improvement, to impede the progress of history.” Citing examples from the Civil War to the Great Depression to the Civil Rights Movement, Brenes lays out an argument against civility, the status quo, and the absence of politics. He closes: “The root cause of our incivility is the inadequacies of our politics . . . political participation, not politeness, is the only way to fix our democracy.”
David Fairman, managing director of the Consensus Building Institute and associate director of the M.I.T.-Harvard Public Disputes Program, recently spoke to David Bornstein about bringing different groups of people into conversation with each other. Fairman believes that our struggle to talk with those whom we disagree with is rooted in a fear that we give in by doing so, which is exacerbated by our combative political system.
Fairman emphasizes the importance of active listening and truly understanding where another person’s views come from. He says: “A much more challenging move is to have serious, difficult conversations with people you know who think differently.” Fairman has seen success when three elements are present in a conversation: relevant issues, legitimate public spaces, and good process and facilitation.
Free Speech on Campus
When controversial figures come to speak on campus, their engagements come with high, unavoidable security costs that universities are obligated to pay. A recent article by Jillian Berman highlights the costs of hosting controversial speakers and the strategies that universities use, from coordinating with local police departments to hiring private security firms.
Recently, More in Common released the results of their year-long Hidden Tribes project, which examined the polarization and divisions in our society and identified seven groups of Americans with distinctive views and beliefs. These groups – the Hidden Tribes of America – are defined as the Progressive Activists, Traditional Liberals, Passive Liberals, Politically Disengaged, Moderates, Traditional Conservatives, and Devoted Conservatives.
Overall, the project found that American society is more complex than the common narrative of polarization would lead us to believe – a narrative that is dominated by the politically extreme ‘Wings.’ In fact, most Americans (the ‘Exhausted Majority’) are frustrated these disagreements, which are rooted in our core beliefs – from our group identity to our moral foundations to our understanding of personal agency and responsibility.
Thanks for reading!