Weekly News Digest, No. 19

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

Director Lara Schwartz and Daniel Ritter co-authored an article on civil discourse that appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Academe. They discussed the importance of cultivating civil discourse in the classroom and outlined best practices for faculty interested in promoting civil discourse.

 Upcoming Events

On Wednesday, February 27th, PEN America and the Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement are holding a student forum on hate speech, academic freedom, and the First Amendment. It will run from 7:00-8:30pm at the Center’s downtown offices. For more information and to RSVP, click here.

On Wednesday, March 6th, Tyler Lewis will speak at American University about the importance of conviction and authenticity in value-driven political communication. Lewis is the Director of Coalition Communications and Research at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Lewis’ talk will be held at 11:30am in MGC 200 and is presented by the Project on Civil Discourse. To RSVP through Facebook, click here.

On Thursday, March 21st, the University of California’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement will host their #SpeechMatters conference at their Washington Center. With a focus on the future of free expression on college campuses, the conference will feature panels on civil discourse and online speech, along with a keynote lecture and other functions. For a detailed schedule and list of speakers or to register, click here.

Campus Speech

PEN America’s Jonathan Friedman writes about the impact of good faith in campus speech controversies in the Winter 2019 issue of Academe.Friedman argues that approaching controversial speakers, trigger warnings, and other hot-button issues with good faith, patience, and listening would deescalate tense situations and reaffirm free speech rights in higher education. However, Friedman notes that some speakers and situations can’t be approached with good faith, such as speakers who targeted historically marginalized groups.

Civil Discourse and Partisanship

The Idaho Statesman recently profiled Keith Allred, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. Allred believes that elected officials are far more partisan than the average American, leading to a self-reinforcing media cycle that drives our nation apart. Allred’s solution is simple: “Start with practical, consensus solutions that share broad support. Inform and mobilize and unite people who prize progress over partisan food fights. Show the extremists that they will lose out if they don’t put broadly supported solutions ahead of partisan positioning.”

Symbols and Beliefs

Matthew A. Sears revisits the historical example of the Peloponnesian War to explain how political symbols signal political beliefs and why their usage can shape history. In the case of the Athenians in 5thcentury B.C., acts of vandalism were painted as the “beginning of a plot to overthrow the Athenian democracy.” In the wake of the Covington Catholic controversy, Sears connects this to the wearing of MAGA hats, writing: “But by proudly displaying their MAGA hats, the boys of Covington Catholic presented themselves as embracing a set of exclusionary ideas. It is absolutely fair and rational to take their own self-presentation seriously.”

Thanks for reading!