It is no secret that people are not getting along. We seem to be living in a world where the loudest voices often drown out differing points of view and make productive debate difficult. People have isolated themselves, and constructive debate has all but disappeared.
College of Charleston communication professor Michael Lee wants to help change all that.
Lee was recently named director of the College of Charleston Civility Initiative. The initiative was established to highlight the value of civility when sharing opposing ideas and how these civil conversations could help to bridge political divides.
It is a subject that Lee knows well. He has dedicated his professional life to studying, researching and teaching about arguments. This includes writing two books about political disputes, one about the rise of the conservative movement in the United States and another about enduring arguments about secession throughout United States history.
Lee says there is a crisis of community in this country. Some of that crisis is about loneliness and isolation, while another part of this crisis is about anger, hate speech and violence. He says there are ways of trying to reduce this crisis.
“Colleges and universities should have a role in helping citizens get along with one another and showing the new data and social science on what effective communication practices look like,” Lee says. “We would like to host events, roundtables and panels to address the crisis of loneliness and community on the one hand, and anger and polarization on the other hand.”
Lee’s goal is to bring nationally renowned journalists, writers and commentators to the College and have them present new ideas on how we can get along better in a democracy. He also wants to invite experts to discuss new research on detecting lies in media messages, hold a series of events to help increase conversations about civility and build a campus culture around civility and community from the ground up.
The first Civility Initiative event will be held in the Stern Center Ballroom (71 George St.) at 3 p.m. on Oct. 25, 2023. The roundtable panel discussion is titled “Is Civility Under Siege?” and will feature Brian Jones of New Paradigm Media and Communications, David Mayorga of the U.S. Department of Energy and Patty Tucker from the Treehouse Council. Free and open to the public, the program will examine the uses and misuses of civility in American politics, media and business.
Lee will soon be launching a podcast called, When We Disagree. Examining memorable arguments that guests have been involved in, the show is interested in why we argue, what we argue about, how we argue and what that says about us all as individuals, our relationships and our culture.
The College of Charleston Civility Initiative is sponsored by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.