Civility Linkblogging: Faith Leaders and Civil Politics

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 month brings us a selection of (mostly) religious voices, from all ends of the political spectrum, calling for civility, tolerance, and kindness. This includes a Unitarian Universalist minister drawing a distinction between debate with the goal of better understanding, and debate with the lesser goal of winning. It includes a Mormon commentator examining civility as a trans-religious value that strengthens society. It includes a Methodist minister reflecting on the value of political correctness. And it includes a Baptist asking us to move beyond civility — to embrace kindness as an active strategy against sin.

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.

Now — the list:

Bring Civility to the Debate Process
Posted by Julia Corbett-Hemeyer at The Star Press, March 5, 2016

There is nothing wrong with candidates throwing themselves passionately into the topic at hand. The situations the United States faces at home and abroad are certainly complicated enough that sincere, reasonable and good-hearted women and men will disagree on the best courses of action. The complexity of the world in which political decisions must be made guarantees that, in addition to good decisions, mistakes will inevitably be made. There will be ample cause to challenge the choices and judgments of one’s predecessors and those on the other side of the political party aisle.

We are not at our best, however, when we are sniping at each other and engaging in personal attacks in the name of debate. We are not at our best when name calling and innuendo cloud our discussion of the issues and of what’s good for the country. We are not at our best when we engage in debate with the goal of “winning” and assuring that our “opponents” are defeated.

Civility is Essential to Strong Societies
Posted by Kristine Frederickson at Desert News, March 6, 2016

The definition itself teaches us the consequences of incivility: When we are uncivil, we become harsh, unmerciful, uncaring, poorly performing citizens who, inevitably, will engage in disorderly behavior. We do not need to look far to see this occurring all around us — road rage, physical altercations, physical attacks, and verbal and physical abuse are evident everywhere.

Incivility has the capacity to destroy strong, unified and healthy societies. The reverse is true — harmonious, courteous, safe and civil communities persist by exhibiting respectful, kind and concerned human interaction.

We Need Civility in Politics Because The Kids ARE Watching
Posted at The Times of San Diego, March 7, 2016

Perhaps we can’t stop the escalating behavior and rhetoric in the political landscape, but we can provide students with an understanding of our how our government works best, how to critically assess the 2016 primaries, and how the respective candidates’ ideas, styles and capacity for collaboration might affect our democracy.

In this election year, the anger, distrust and contentiousness of the people toward government have gotten our attention. What hasn’t been talked about so much is how this mood affects those who will inherit the future: our youth. Will the unintended consequences of this toxic election year move our nation into an era of even further division and fragmentation? Or will we find the will to show the next generation how to live effectively in a diverse and eclectic world with others of differing opinions?How we answer this question for our children may well shape the America we leave them even more than the actual election outcome.

Political Correctness is Correct
Posted by Doug Fairbanks at TimesFreePress.com, March 19, 2016

So this brings me to the correctness of political correctness. In my opinion, political correctness is just one attempt to help all of us be more aware of the value and worth of every human being. We only need to access any form of news media to discover that our world and our society have not risen to that high calling. And, though political correctness can make us feel a bit uncomfortable at times, better that than becoming so complacent in regards to human relationships that we become numb to treating each other with mutual respect.

As a child, I learned to sing, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” As a Christian, I am reminded that my main goal is to love as God loves. As a human being, I am aware that I fail at that more often than I care to admit. But at least the awareness of the truth bothers me enough that I keep on trying to imitate God’s extravagant love.

Again, political correctness is at least a feeble attempt to be like a burr under the saddle of our human psyche, reminding us that all is not well in human relationships and we need to keep trying to make it better. Indeed, we need to keep trying to make it much better. And I say better that we continue to be disturbed in this regard than just write off the correctness of political correctness.

We Need More Than Civility; We Need Kindness
Posted by Russell D. Moore at Pastors.com, March 19, 2016

When we don’t oppose demons, we demonize opponents. And without a clear vision of the concrete forces we as the church are supposed to be aligned against, we find it very difficult to differentiate between enemy combatants and their hostages.

The Scriptures command us to be gentle and kind to unbelievers, not because we are not at war, but because we’re not at war with them (2 Tim. 2:26). When we see that we are warring against principalities and powers in the heavenly places, we can see that we’re not wrestling against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). The path to peace isn’t through bellicosity or surrender, but through fighting the right war (Rom. 16:20). We rage against the Reptile, not against his prey.

We hear many calls, from across the religious and political spectrum, for civility. But civility is not enough. Civility is a neutral ground, a sort of mutual non-aggression pact, where we agree to respect one another and not to belittle one another. That’s important, and a good start, but that’s not enough. Just as we are not for “toleration” of those who religiously disagree with us but for “liberty,” so we should not be for mere civility, but for, from our end, kindness. Civility is passive; kindness is active and strategic.

Civility Linkblogging: Marriage Equality, Classroom Management, and Social Media

Civility Linkblogging
A Lynx, because Linkblogging

This post is part of 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 week, look out for two main issues: how civility can (and does) enhance discussions about marriage equality and gay rights in general, and civility as a tool for classroom management. In the days surrounding the recent Supreme Court marriage legalizing same-sex marriage, we saw stories about how people on both sides of the issues have come together to have civil discussions, and we saw stories about public officials urging civility among their constituents. While outside of the United States, in the UK, we have an extended discussion by Scottish teacher and author Tom Bennett about the value of civility as a tool for modifying behavior in schools.

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.

Now — the list:

On Same-Sex Marriage, Finding Civility but Not Common Ground
By Emily Cadei, at Newsweek, June 24, 2014

Yet even as they prepare to do battle on the policy front, both Red Wing and Vander Plaats plan to continue their dialogue, both publicly and privately. Several more public events are tentatively slated for this fall. Vander Plaats hopes it can demonstrate, to politicians and the public, alike that civility is not the same thing as conceding to the other side: “What they’re going to find is we’re not leaving our beliefs.” He’s also encouraging members of his evangelical community to do similar outreach with those on the other side of a particular issue.

Still, they’re just two voices in a cacophony of political campaigns, Super PACs and talking heads that have converged on the state in the advance of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses next February. “As we get more and more into this presidential political caucus time, can Bob and I on some level help de-escalate some of the anger, some of the aggressiveness and animosity” of campaign season? Red Wing wonders. “I don’t know.”

Indiana Attorney General Urges Civility, Respect for Marriage Ruling
Posted at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, June 26, 2015

Indiana’s attorney general is asking residents to treat each other with civility and show respect for the U.S. Supreme Court following its ruling requiring all states to recognize same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement Friday that the court’s 5-4 decision won’t change much in Indiana because the state has allowed same-sex marriage since last year.

We Need to Help Children Develop Habits of Civility and Learning that Last Them a Lifetime
By Tom Bennett, at TES Magazine, June 26, 2015

I’ve worked with new teachers for years on this. I’ve run behaviour management forums for most of my career, and I’ve heard thousands of problems from year after year of teachers. I’ve visited well over 100 schools in my career, and the challenges are often the same: many staff don’t feel trained to handle behaviour, schools often lack clear and effective systems to manage behaviour and many senior staff are unsure how to create a system that works for all parties. This is too important to get wrong. …

Everyone wants a magic bullet intervention that costs little and raises attainment. Well, here it is: make sure every teacher is trained to run a room; make sure every leader and manager is trained to design systems that support behaviours that focus on the common good. Tweak those coordinates early enough in the career of every educator, and watch the lessons land.

Has Civility Lost Its Way on Social Media?
By Kathi Kruse, at Kruse Control, Inc., June 29, 2015

Has Civility Lost Its Way on Social Media? Or is social media just a reflection of a much bigger issue? Have we lost our way as a culture, where civility towards our fellow sentient beings has diminished to the point of no return?

After observing this situation for awhile now, I realize that some of it is simply people reacting. But reactionary behavior makes it easy to lose control of one’s faculties and good judgment. Things can get so bad that the concept of “think before you post” doesn’t even enter into your consciousness.

Make no mistake, misdirected anger and social media do not mix well.

Local League of Women Voters Aims for Civility at Public Meetings
By David Sneed, at SanLuisObispo.com, July 2, 2015

The nonpartisan group has been working on this subject for the past two years but has made it their main focus this year. On Tuesday, county supervisors will consider adopting a resolution by the group promoting civility in conducting business with elected officials, county staff and the public.

“This is not a whim; this is a passion,” said Marilee Hyman, immediate past president of the League. “Civil discourse is necessary to make democracy work.”

Supervisors are expected to approve the resolution. Last year, they voted unanimously to give a $1,800 grant to the League to fund its civil discourse campaign.

Civility Linkblogging: Education, Religious Expression, and Free Speech

Civility Linkblogging
A Lynx, because Linkblogging

Welcome back to civility linkblogging. In this recurring segment here at the Civility blog, we highlight discourse in print and around the web that engages with notions of civility, either by expounding on some aspect of it we might not otherwise think about, or by showing us civility — or lack thereof — in action.

This week’s links come at the nexus of what we here in the United States think of as the First Amendment. The majority of our articles this week are about religion, free speech, and civility. We have one that offers some guidance on the limits of free speech in an educational context; another that points toward a balance between religion, politics, and civility; and a third about policing civility in one of the world’s largest collaborative scholarly projects — the Wikipedia.

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.

Now — the list:

The Humanities Can Help Us Rekindle Notions of the Common Good
Posted by Bernard L. Kavaler at The CT Mirror, January 20, 2015

Nearly half of millennials – significantly more than any other generation – now accept the notion that incivility is part of the American political process. But in a recent poll by Weber Shandwick, nearly one in four millennials believe civility will improve over the next few years, two to four times the percentage of other generations. While 56 percent of millennials say the Internet and social media are making civility worse, they remain optimistic.

Given the dizzying changes and challenges that demand our response, common ground and the common good are too often viewed — to our collective detriment — as unwelcome capitulation, unbridled naiveté, or utterly unattainable.

Civility and Free Speech in Education
Posted by David Moshman at The Huffington Post, January 21, 2015

What to do? Nothing in any Supreme Court decision requires censorship. Far from promoting civility, censorship is itself uncivil. Teachers can and should promote civil discussion without censoring or punishing uncivil speech. They can be models of civility, can urge and remind students to respect each other, can engage students in serious argumentation, and can evaluate the quality of their arguments. None of this requires censorship.

Sometimes there will be controversy about what gets said and sometimes there will be efforts to prevent or punish uncivil ideas or modes of expression. We should not assume that if academic freedom is threatened the First Amendment will come to its rescue. Rather than rely on wishful thinking about constitutional law, educators at all levels must clarify and explain the academic basis for academic freedom and promote policies that protect that freedom for all.

Civility Is a Currency We Must Value
Posted by Martin Flanagan at The Age, January 24, 2015

Culturally and politically, I belong to the West. I happen to believe in parliamentary democracy… That people can routinely commit appalling deeds while claiming to be acting in the name of religion is precisely why I do not wish to live in a religious state. I want my daughters and granddaughters to have access to the social rights and liberties that have been hard-won by women in Western societies. I believe in a secular democratic society and intend to do my bit defending it.

What I am arguing for is civility. To quote a diplomat’s wife from the 18th century, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, “Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.” As for Ali Faraj, he and I’ll keep talking. About what? About everything. At the moment, he’s badgering me to take him for a trip around Tasmania. He knows I’m from down there and wants to see the place. Ali loves Australia.

Incivility Is on the Rise. Five Ways to Avoid Being Part of the Problem
Posted by Michelle Powell at AL.com, January 26, 2015

Millennials reportedly experience bad behavior on a daily basis. And admittedly, they are themselves the culprits four in 10 times, yet Millennials are the very generation with the most hope that things will get better.

The 2014 report shows 23 percent optimism for improved civility in future America as compared to no more than 11 percent from the other generations.

So what does all of this mean for business? According to the study, an uncivil work environment has caused 27 percent of millennials to quit a job. And because of poor treatment by a company representative nearly half (49 percent) have either stopped patronizing a company or told others not to support that business.

Civility, Wikipedia, and the Conversation on Gamergate
Posted by Philippe Beaudette at the Wikimedia Blog, January 27, 2015

Civility is an important concept for Wikipedia: it is what allows people to collaborate and disagree constructively even on difficult topics. It ensures people are able to focus their energy on what really matters: building a collaborative free encyclopedia for the world.

A group of trusted, long-term volunteer English Wikipedia editors (known as the Arbitration Committee) is now reviewing the conduct of the editors who participated on the Gamergate controversy article discussions. Their mandate is to review editor conduct, and address disruptions so that Wikipedia can remain a civil, productive place for all editors. They may do so through issuing warnings, bans, or other means.

Civility and Cybercivility in Schools: Two Updates

In December of 2013, Joshua Starr, superintendent of schools for Montgomery County, Maryland, faced a distinctly uncivil snow-day situation online. According to Washington D.C.’s NBC 4, as the weather worsened and as he decided whether or not to cancel school he began receiving tweets from students that ranged from snarky to “offensive and disturbing.”

According to NBC, Starr said that some of these tweets were clever, funny, and respectful, pleading for me to cancel school so they could sleep in or have more time to do their homework. But not all. They also included rampant use of racial epithets and curse words, and threats to himself and to his family.

In response, Starr wrote a letter to parents calling for a renewed conversation about how we can support our children in using technology in a way that is healthy, productive, and positive. We need, he said, to talk about “cybercivility”: how we can help our children grow into responsible and caring adults who interact with one another in a civil, respectful way. And he directed his staff to develop some materials and methods to help schools and families navigate these conversations.

In 2014, it seems, Joshua Starr has leveraged his experience to take matters one step further in a constructive direction. In this February 19 interview on D.C.’s Fox 5 news, he speaks with reporters about the Montgomery County Public Schools’ Cybercivility Task Force — a new initiative that will — according to mymcmedia.comdevelop strategies to raise awareness of the need for cybercivility in how MCPS students and adults communicate online, and guide the creation of tools for schools, parents and community members that encourage conversations about cybercivility.

DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

The goal, Starr says, is to teach our kids to behave online in the same way we expect them to comport themselves in public… Just like we expect our kids to say please and thank you, and all that, we want them to act the same on Twitter, or Facebook, or wherever else they are socially engaged on the internet.

You can find out more about the Montgomery County Public Schools’ Cybercivility Task Force by clicking here.

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In the meantime, New Hampshire Public Radio has this short interview with Malcolm Smith, professor in the University of New Hampshire’s Department of Education and founder of the Courage to Care Program, a curriculum aimed at encouraging empathy and civility among middle school students. Like Joshua Starr, he talks about the importance of training students in civility as a bulwark against bullying. And as part of teacher training, he has been instructing nascent educators in techniques that do just that.