Weekly News Digest, No. 11

Welcome to the eleventh installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog.

On Monday, Yazan Hanouneh wrote about the value of bringing speakers to campus in his role as director of the Kennedy Political Union. Yazan writes: “Students constantly get excited about the events KPU hosts and use them as a means for civil conversation. The power of KPU events is not just what students experience at the lecture, but rather the conversations an event will ignite elsewhere on campus.”

Olivia Ivey, associate university librarian at American, was featured in an article on civil discourse by the School of Public Affairs. Ivey discusses the importance of truth in civil discourse and society, saying: “If we can’t agree on a set of facts about what those communities need, then we really are just shouting into the wind. We need pursuit of truth to be part of our civil discourse or it’s not even possible to begin a conversation.”

Upcoming Events

On Thursday, December 6th, Robert George and Cornel West will speak at American University about “The Purpose of a Liberal Education.” George, a conservative legal scholar at Princeton University, and West, a liberal philosophy professor at Harvard University, will discuss free speech, liberal arts education, and truth. The School of Public Affairs’ Political Theory Institute is hosting the lecture, which will be held at 5:30PM in Constitution Hall, East Campus. To learn more or RSVP, visit the event page.

Academic Discourse

Student Jonathan Wolfson recently wrote an opinion piece on rigorous academic discourse for The Eagle, American’s student newspaper. Wolfson specifically wrote about Dinesh D’Souza’s November lecture and the claims he made – claims that Wolfson argues aren’t backed up by facts. He writes: “Academia relies on a process of promoting correct ideas while suppressing wrong ones . . . By allowing people like D’Souza to have a platform in universities, you are allowing the spread of ideas detached from facts.”

After the event, Real Talk featured two posts in response to D’Souza’s lecture: Tom Lebert’s “Debate is Fragile. Dinesh D’Souza Took Advantage of It” and Kate Minium’s response on behalf of Young Americans for Freedom, which hosted the event.

Civil Discourse on Campus

After protests erupted over planned speeches by Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter, the University of California, Berkeley has seen a different style of engagement on campus: actual discussions across ideological lines. Jeremy Bauer-Wolf writes that controversial right-wing figures like Charlie Kirk and Candace Owens have come to campus to engage in discussion with students, rather than rile up or insult the student body. Bauer-Wolf credits this change to new student groups that promote civil dialogue, including BridgeUSA, the Berkeley Conservative Society, and new leadership in the College Republicans.

Discourse on Social Media

Earlier this fall, Twitter announced changes to its “hateful conduct” policy that included a ban on targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgendered individuals. Parker Molloy writes in The New York Times that this ban promotes free speech, as trans people are more likely to speak if they know they won’t be told they don’t exist. Molloy argues that “the content free-for-all chills speech by allowing the dominant to control the parameters of debate, never letting discussion proceed past the pedantic obsession with names and pronouns.”

Molloy mentions an editorial by Ben Shapiro about the tendency to label President Trump “racist,” using Shapiro’s argument to support Twitter’s ban: “Just as we can’t actually address the merits of any particular policy proposed by Mr. Trump if our focus is solely on the man himself, we can’t address the merits of policies that affect trans people if debate starts from the premise that trans people are and will always be whatever happens to be stamped on our original birth certificates.”

Thanks for reading!

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