On Civility and Politics in the Classroom

Ashley Thorne

Amy Cavender at the Chronicle has an opinion piece about teaching students to have civil in-class conversations on controversial subjects. NAS, of course, works to foster "civil debate" in higher education; Prof. Cavender's relections are relevant to our efforts. In "Modeling Civility and Use of Evidence in the Classroom" she writes:

One of the most gratifying bits of feedback I've ever received from a student came in the form of a note thanking me for being so even-handed and fair in classroom discussions. I later learned that this student and I disagree rather sharply on most political issues, so I take the fact that said student thought I'd been very even-handed as an indicator that I've had at least some success in modeling fairness.

Cavender asks:

What's been your experience of helping students develop their abilities to engage other points of view (political or otherwise) civilly and to provide good evidence for their own positions? Do you have any tips to share?

Readers, any thoughts? If you are a student, alumnus, or parent, what's been your experience from the learning side of things? Did you debate people with other views with civility and evidence? Were your ideas treated with fairness? 

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