Civility Linkblogging: Pushing on the Limits of Civility

Civility LinkbloggingCivility Linkblogging is an ongoing series that highlights discourse about civility from around the Web. We glean the links in this segment from as broad a cross-section as we can manage of blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other online venues, from the United States and around the world.

This installment offers two compelling arguments that the governing force behind our discourse need not be civility, and one discussion of why it absolutely must be. In The Des Moines Register and in Commentary Magazine, we are reminded that other values like free speech and conviction must always be weighed as well. While in The Irish Times, we are reminded that even in those circumstances we must recall that those who hold beliefs that are different from our own usually do so honestly and without malice.

As always, if you have an article that you think would be right for future civility linkblogging posts, please do not hesitate to email it to us at editor@instituteforcivility.org. Include the title, url, and a short summary, and we will gladly review it for publication.

Civility in Government
Posted by David Rosenof at Sun-Sentinel.com, April 28, 2016

The foundation for this model starts in our schools, where students should be required to take civics to prepare them to become knowledgeable and engaged citizens. Civics classes, however, have been pushed aside over recent years, and the result is that less and less students even know the three branches of government. If we are going to achieve our desired civility in government, our young people must learn American history, know how our political system works, understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens and the importance of community engagement.

Along with teaching how our government functions is the obligation of educators to instill autonomous critical thinking and debate skills. In order to become responsible citizens, our young people must become adept at using debate skills as a tool to communicate.

On Campus, Civility and First Amendment in Conflict
Posted at The Des Moines Register, May 2, 2016

Enough bad feelings had come to a head that some 200 people felt a need to gather at the University of Northern Iowa on a November night to talk. The topic was diversity.

The catalyst was the kind of language students were hearing around campus.

Encounters like that on campuses across the country are prompting an examination of whether limits on speech and expression should exist at a college or university.

It’s a controversial topic, raising this sticky question: If limits should exist, where should they be placed?

Leaders Laugh but Should also Fight
Posted by Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary Magazine, May 3, 2016

There is, of course, nothing wrong with Boehner being a good sport and playing a role in Obama’s video. But in recent years the complaint that Obama and Boehner should have learned from the example of President Ronald Reagan and his generally friendly adversary House Speaker Tip O’Neill is a bit misleading.

It’s true that the ability of the pair to relax and share a joke and a drink didn’t harm their working relationship. But if deals were made during that administration it wasn’t primarily because the two knew how to be civil. It was because both were able to agree on legislation that they viewed as in the common interest.

Coping: How to Argue with Civility, the Thomas Jefferson Way
Posted by Laura Kennedy at The Irish Times, May 11, 2016

We all encounter this: people associating their own view with being moral or good, and an opposing one as inherently bad or damaging. To point this out in conversation is a way of shutting down discourse; to suggest that a perspective is in itself bad without querying the reasons behind it is to refuse the opportunity to test your own view, or to learn whether and why you are wrong.

If a person holds a view that I don’t agree with, even one that could limit my freedom, such as the view that abortion is never acceptable, it isn’t because they have bad intentions or are some sort of degenerate. They have come to a different conclusion on the issue. Only through rational discourse can we hope to have a thorough debate.

Former Social Secretaries from Bush, Obama Administrations Writing Book on Civility
Posted by Emily Heil at The Washington Post, May 11, 2016

“The White House is of course a very political environment,” Berman says. “But everyone, no matter what, does their best work when they come from a place of mutual respect, and that might be getting lost in American culture.”

At first the pair considered writing a straightforward entertaining guide, but they soon realized that that is a crowded market — and that deeper issues were at play. The first-time authors describe the project not as a guide to proper pinkie placement, but rather a how-to on human interactions peppered with anecdotes — both positive examples and cautionary tales — from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “People are so interested in the White House,” Bernard says. “And everything is magnified there … but the issues are applicable wherever you are, from Walmart to a law firm.”