Weekly News Digest, No. 23

Welcome to the twenty-third installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog. Last week, the regular digest was replaced with a special edition focused on President Trump’s executive order on campus free speech.

Last Monday, Kira Pyne wrote about her experiences studying abroad in Copenhagen and the importance of asking questions to understand, not to provoke or confront.

Student Discussions

Are you interested in the role of political, social, and racial identity in speech? Do you want to talk with your peers about campus speech, civility, or post-truth conversations?

The Project on Civil Discourse is holding twenty student discussions where a group of 8-10 students and two peer facilitators come together to talk about discourse from a variety of different angles. There are nine more discussions scheduled for this year. For a list of discussions, click here. To register, click here.

Family Discourse

Ashley Fetters writes in The Atlantic about how families can navigate tense, fraught political conversations. Fetters’ article features Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers, who have published a podcast and a book about this issue. Holland and Silvers recommend having conversations to understand, rather than convince, and they recognize that there are boundaries – some issues don’t have ‘both sides.’

Political Discourse

As the two-year anniversary of the deadly “Unite the Right Rally” approaches, the city of Charlottesville has been forced to redefine civility and public discourse. Former mayor Mike Signer enforced Robert’s Rules of Order, while community activist Nikuyah Walker and councilmember Wes Ballamy emphasized the difference between civility and politeness. Vice Mayor Heather Hill says that even the “very concept of civility has been polarizing here.”

Supportive Discourse

Brittany Packnett writes about her own experiences in social justice activism, arguing that “we can’t just show up for social justice issues when it impacts our own lives.” In her own words: “The cost of your silence is greater than the cost of your truth.”

Trump’s Executive Order

In the days and weeks since President Trump’s executive order on campus free speech, more analysis and commentary has been published. For an explanation of the order and the initial response, read through the special edition on the order.

Jonathan Zimmerman, professor at the University of Pennsylvania, writes that while President Trump should not be the arbiter of free speech, there is still a problem on college campuses: students, faculty, and staff don’t feel comfortable speaking their minds.

Tom Lindsay, director of the Center for Innovation in Education, writes that the order is a good first step in restoring the fundamental right to free speech on campus. Lindsay argues that free speech isn’t political because it’s the precursor to politics and debate.

Keith Whittington, professor at Princeton University and author of Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech, writes that the order is a crude tool that is unlikely to do much good and likely to do some harm. Whittington writes that it is unclear “how much this changes the status quo,” but that it does politicize “federal intervention in campus free speech issues.”

Thanks for reading!

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