Political Civility? Opposing College Groups Issue Joint Proclamation


Are you tired of all the nitpicking between supporters of the main political parties? These days, it is nearly impossible to have a civil discussion without an argument erupting, setting aside any chance that a consensus might be raised.

college studentsWell, two college groups—College Democrats and College Republicans—have decided to do something about it, at least at the higher education level. Students leaders from both groups, representing 14 college and universities in nine states, recently released a joint statement for elected officials and their constituents. Titled, “Ten Tips to Improve Civility,” the points made were as follows:

1. Listen willingly to opposing views.

2. Seek shared values with political opponents.

3. Acknowledge the legitimacy of your adversaries.

4. Identify the problem at hand and focus on it rather than on larger conflicts.

5. Avoid political caricatures, labels and generalizations that may not
truly represent the views of your adversaries.

6. Acknowledge disagreement genuinely without suppressing your own

7. Ask clarifying questions before responding.

8. Recognize the value of solutions beyond those offered by traditional
party platforms.

9. Recognize that your words and actions will have consequences.

10. Be personally accountable for your political actions.

The students crafted the statement as part of a Pathway to Civility conference held at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania.

“We intended this conference to serve as a pilot program, an early step in our ongoing efforts to look for creative ways to enhance communication between young Democrats and Republicans,” said Daniel M. Shea, political science professor and director of the Center for Political Participation.

“Our idea was to encourage students from both sides of the aisle to work together to examine the serious issue of civility in politics, establish a high bar for the respectful exchange of ideas, and, in the process, perhaps begin to develop some lasting friendships.

“We were quite impressed both with the students’ passion for issues and with their determination to work together to create opportunities to reach consensus where possible. Civility, it seems, may be one of those areas for agreement.”

Attending students came away from the conference with a new understanding of the meaning of civility and its importance in society. Said Amanda McCann, a political science major at Indiana University-Purdue University and vice president of the College Republicans on her campus, “The conference was very interesting. It changed my perception of civility, really deepened my understanding of the concept.”

The conference followed a study released last month by Allegheny College titled, “Nastiness, Name-Calling, and Negativity,” which took a look at the tone of political discourse in America. That study noted that 95 percent of Americans believe that a healthy democracy benefits from civility while 87 percent said it is possible for people to disagree respectfully about politics.

Source: Allegheny College

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