a useful definition of civility

(Logan airport, trying to get to Chicago) Because I study civic engagement and civil society, people often expect me to favor civility. My actual view is more complicated; not only civil dialogue but also contentious speech is important in a democracy. Citizens should be able to express righteous anger; parties and candidates should face zero-sum competitions that necessitate sharp debate. Yet there is a reason to care about civility: it helps us to learn from other people. That is why I like the norm that the Civic Commons expects of its online participants: “We’re as interested in each other’s opinions as we are in our own. And we act like it.” That works for me as a definition of civility. For more on the context, see Dan Moulthrop’s remarks at Frontiers of Democracy.

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
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