At Georgia Military College it is our intention that every campus and every classroom be an island of civility where staff and faculty members set examples of fair-minded, respectful, sensitive, caring, tolerant, and cooperative behavior--and students practice it.
Our classrooms must always be places where competing ideas, opposing ideologies, moral dilemmas of all descriptions, and cultural differences are appreciated, given a fair hearing, studied, discussed, and debated rationally and civilly.
To this end, one of our principal character development and educational goals is to create a classroom environment in which students are given many opportunities to practice "civil" discourse in the presence of differing views and thereby learn to speak civilly to each other, work through disagreements, treat each other with respect, and avoid the absolutism and demonization that too often accompanies polarization.
There are undoubtedly many ways to go about creating such an environment. Gary Pavela, editor of Synfax Weekly Report, offered the following advice in the November 8, 2004 edition of Synfax:
- Students need to see civility as an acquired skill. It requires careful thinking and habituation, stimulated by good example. Administrators can help by arranging debates about controversial issues between faculty colleagues known for their emotional intelligence. Part of the discussion should include analysis of ways to examine polarizing issues in the spirit of truth seeking rather than confrontation.
In aid of further developing Pavela’s last point, faculty and students are urged to visit Christian Science Monitor’s "Public Conversations Project: Constructive Conversations that Reach Across Differences," a web site, ...which promotes constructive conversations and relationships among people who have differing values, world views, and perspectives about divisive public issues.
Of special value to faculty and students is the section of the Christian Science Monitor web site entitled "Bridging US Political Divides," that offers readers tools for learning how to engage in "one-on-one constructive conversation" and how to make "hard conversations work." There readers will also find access to ten Monitor articles on the general subject of civility around which any number of instructive classroom assignments and discussions can be organized.