Hey, isn’t it time for more civil discourse?
A couple of years ago, I was in a debate class, and during an open discussion, I was advocating for a new law that I thought should be implemented. After I had spoken, a girl from across the class pointed a finger at me and shouted, “Communist!”
Rather than responding to what I had said with a counter argument, she had simply resorted to name-calling.
Now just to clarify, I’m not a communist, nor was the policy I was advocating for, but even if I was that situation would have been a terrible example of civil discourse. It was not an appropriate way to disagree or debate.
First, let’s think about why it’s important to have civil discourse. The fact is that people have different opinions on how things should be done, and it always will be that way because people do not share identical experiences. It’s important to handle these differences in the best way possible, and that’s what civil discourse is all about.
I experienced this myself in another class where we simulated the Supreme Court. One of my friends in the class was a justice on the court, and I was a lawyer for the defense. My friend’s ruling was in favor of the plaintiff, and I was furious. I thought it was clear that I was right on the issue that was presented!
What I failed to understand was that my friend had incredibly different experiences throughout her life than I did. And if her life was different than mine, then of course the way she thought about life would be different! Disagreement will always be around, and it’s important that we discuss these disagreements appropriately.
There are a few things that are necessary to do as a part of civil discourse. To have civil discourse, it’s first important to remember that if given the same life as someone else, you might even agree with that person. Having this mindset has helped me maintain respect for others in heated discussions and keep an open mind to the perspective they hold. Having that open mind and even being willing to admit when you’re wrong is additionally an essential element of civil discourse.
However, this isn’t to be confused with not advocating for your position. Firm advocacy is an important element of civil discourse. Without it, then there’s no discourse at all. If the Founding Fathers had not defended their stances, then we wouldn’t have the Constitution today, and equally, if they had not been civil with each other when disagreements arose, then we also wouldn’t have that great document.
Civil discourse brings about many benefits, such as the Constitution. While there were certainly flaws with the original draft, it changed the world for the better.
Many times the result of civil discourse is compromising, and in situations where I compromise, it can feel like I’m giving up. However, it’s important to remember that the Constitution itself is sometimes called “The Great Compromise.” This means that not any one of the Founding Fathers could craft the document how they wanted it. It even took 10 months before it was first ratified. Yet through the means of civil discourse, our founders created a government that would last through a civil war, both world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War and many other conflicts leading to today where it still stands.
Equality all around
I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to write for a new news site called Leftrightnews.net. The site is set up so that, side-by-side, you can read an opinion on an issue that is right-leaning and an opinion that is left-leaning. Through that, I have been able to see the value of having a variety of opinions around you, and it has led me to challenge my own opinions and make them better.
Civil discourse is not about convincing everyone to agree and be on the same side. It’s about respecting that everyone doesn’t agree. It’s the fact that the smartest professor and the fast-food employee get an equal vote. It’s the Democrat listening to the Republican. It’s the Republicans letting the Democrats have a say.
That’s what civil discourse is. It’s pooling together the ideas that we all can bring to the table and pushing them together so that the result is that everyone walks away with a more refined view of the world — even if it’s not the same one.
When I learn the most, it’s because of civil discourse and the new ideas I can expose myself to. Civil discourse has made America better and made me better, too.
Joshua Bowen is a senior who studies in homeschool. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.