Civil Discourse

I would like begin this post with a passage from page 24 of Civility: Manners, Morals and the Etiquette of Democracy by Stephen L. Carter.  This book has become a reference manual for me, dog-eared and tattered, especially when I’m feeling snide or unruly.  Carter writes:

Democracy demands dialogue, and dialogue flows from disagreement.  But we can, and maybe must, be relentlessly partisan without being actively uncivil.  Indeed, the more passionate our certainty that we are right, the more urgent our need to practice the art of civility – otherwise, we make dialogue impossible, and the possibility of dialogue is the reason democracy values disagreement in the first place.  For those who believe in dialogue, then, hypocrisy lies in the pretense that we can discuss our differences seriously without the aid of civility.

I would like to encourage more comments and comments from more people on this blog.  It is my hope that this can be one place for dialogue about public schools, public education and St. Vrain schools in particular.

I would encourage everyone who posts comments to consider Carter’s advice.  Consider, too, these questions when you do post:  How will this add to the discussion?  Will it add new knowledge or a different perspective?  Will the tenor of the comment invite others to join in?

I would like this to be a place in which we can engage on disagreements, even sharp disagreements.  I believe that sorting through disagreements is the best way to learn and discover better ways to do things.  I do not want this to be a place where people feel a license to be mean spirited.  Snide remarks typically shut conversation down.  As Carter says, we cannot discuss our differences seriously without the aid of civility.

I am confident that people who read this blog know the difference between constructive disagreement and being rude.  I hope many people will comment and comment often in this spirit.


3 Responses to “Civil Discourse”

  1. Brad Jolly Says:

    John, I agree with you that civility is important. Perhaps we have different definitions of what constitutes civility, however.
    One example of civility that I always practice is that of never asking City Council (or anybody else) to support a massive property tax increase for a cause that I support. The idea of forcing people (at gunpoint, potentially) to fork over money or lose their homes strikes me as a very uncivil way to behave toward people, and therefore, I resist that impulse, even for causes that I favor.
    Like many people, I react better (and more civilly) to those who are not constantly grabbing for my wallet. This is not to say that I am a tightwad; I give plenty away voluntarily, but I like to have choice in the matter.

  2. John Creighton Says:

    I agree that we have different definitions of civility.
    I respect people’s desires to keep taxes low. However an argument that equates a local, democratic referendum in which all registered voters are able to express their preference on whether or not to raise taxes with an uncivil police action is, at best, nonsense. If one would follow this logic, we would not have streets, we would not have sewer and water systems, we would not have police or fire protection. In short, modern society would not exist.
    At a more basic level, I surmise that you and I were taught very different lessons about what constitutes good manners.

  3. Brad Jolly Says:

    So who said anything about “an uncivil police action?” The simple fact is that if the mill levy override passes, people who do not pay it will, in fact, end up with armed men from the county on their front porch in order to help them move.
    I am not an anarchist. I fully understand the need for taxes at some level. I fully appreciate the taxes that I pay toward streets, sewer and water systems, police and fire protection.
    I am a strong supporter of using tax money to fund education for all. However, when we spend more money year after year after year after year after year after year after year and still get lousy results, when less expensive alternatives get better results, I do wonder if it is wise to spend even more money on a broken system.
    Finally, perhaps you are right about the manners thing. I, for example, was taught not to speculate on another’s upbringing in public.

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