Fostering Civil Discourse in the Classroom and Beyond

It’s no surprise that Americans believe that America has a civility problem. What may surprise you is that this is not a new phenomenon. In Civility in America: An Annual Nationwide Survey, Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate  conducted poll tracking since 2010 on the state of civility and found that 93 percent of Americans identify civility a problem, with 68 percent of those classifying it a “major” problem.

As a result, five Belmont students recently developed a campaign focused on improving civil discourse.

In their blog How to Start Engaging in Civil Discourse, they offer five practices for creating and sustaining healthy discourse in and out of the classroom:

  1. Prepare for civil dialogue 

A first step to engaging in civil discourse is creating an accepting and welcoming space for conversation and disagreement. You want to ensure that you do not silence differing opinions, but remain open to these conversations.

  1. Set boundaries

As you begin difficult conversations, be aware of your own mental and emotional needs, setting boundaries when necessary. You may need to limit the conversation time or scope in order to ensure a healthy and positive conversation for both you and your conversational partner(s).

  1. Focus on the issue

Miscommunication is real and can quickly reduce civil discourse. It is essential that all individuals in the conversation are on the same page so that miscommunication can be prevented. The more each individual keeps the evidence, comments, and conversation to the topic at hand, the easier it becomes to have civil and productive conversations.

  1. Listen to understand

Listening is essential to civil discourse. Individuals need to approach conversations with an open mind and a willingness to hear the other person. The central goal is to listen in order to understand, not listen in order to respond.

  1. Be honest and respectful

Civil discourse doesn’t mean censoring or downplaying your beliefs. In fact, it’s the opposite. Be honest about your own ideas, beliefs and opinions, and be respectful of the honest conversation of others.

The classroom is an important space for personal growth and development. By affecting civil discourse in the classroom, these Belmont students believe we can create a more civil and collaborative community beyond our academic borders. To learn more about their Talk the Talk civil discourse campaign, visit their website and take the pledge to demonstrate your support of engaging in civil discourse.

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