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WAMC’s The Roundtable Airs A Special Series On Civility

WAMC will broadcast a special radio series that will take an in-depth look at civility in public discourse over three consecutive days, June 16th, 17th and 18th, between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on WAMC’s morning radio program, The Roundtable. 

Joe Donahue, host of The Roundtable says, “This project has allowed us to mine questions from listeners in our region and pose them to the top scholars in the country on this topic. To have the opportunity to explore the many facets of this complex conversation has been one of the most meaningful projects I have ever worked on.” The series includes questions and concerns from Massachusetts residents who took part in forums at a pair of public library events in North Adams and Springfield, moderated by WAMC journalists Jim Levulis and Paul Tuthill.

This series will ask the questions: What is happening with civil discourse in America?  Is incivility in government and in the public square becoming the new norm?  Is a breakdown in communication threatening democracy?  Are stalemates and political posturing standing in the way of achieving resolutions, problem solving, and finding common ground?  Does civility matter?  Are name calling and incivility just “sticks and stones” that are part of the process or does the process get hurt by them?  Across the U.S., these questions are at the heart of the discussion about the current state of incivility in America, which has risen to crisis level. 

Monday, June 16th, WAMC’s segment is: Civility: The American Journey. This segment will discuss civility throughout our history as a nation, how we have reached the current state of incivility, and the threat to our democratic form of government. WAMC will explore what the role of civility is and has been in our society, seek a common definition and determine how American civility in society and politics compares throughout the rest of the world.

WAMC will feature the following scholars: Mark Caldwell, Professor of English at Fordham University and author of the book A Short History of Rudeness: Manners, Morals, and Misbehavior in Modern America; Douglas Muzzio, Co-director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership in Government and the founder and former director of Baruch Survey Research, both at Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs at the City University of New York; and Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He is the author of the book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

Tuesday, June 17th, WAMC’s segment is: Civility: Tolerance and Expectations. WAMC will explore the issues of tolerance and how we can remain civil, the psychological, cultural and societal forces that help shape our personal levels of civility, the language of civility and what we expect of others in return for our civility. It will also consider issues of entitlement, media effects and demographic factors.

WAMC will feature the following scholars: Randall R. Kennedy, The Michael R. Klein Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, where he teaches courses on contracts, freedom of expression, and the regulation of race relations; Arthur Miller, a leading scholar in the field of American civil procedure, a University Professor at New York University, and Chairman of The NYU Sports & Society Program. Prior to that, he was the Bruce Bromley Professor of Law at Harvard Law School; and Jonathan Haidt, Social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

Wednesday, June 18th, WAMC’s segment is: Civility: An Exercise in Getting Along.  WAMC will welcome two scholars for an in-depth panel discussion to discuss what the beginning steps are for improved civility in our politics, discourse and search for common ground.  WAMC will open its phone lines to allow listeners to respond to the prior two days of material and ask specific questions and discuss the concepts presented.

WAMC will feature the following scholars: Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science and Chair of Political Science at Amherst College; and David Smith, John W. Chandler Professor of English at Williams College. Professor Smith participated in a 2012 seminar on civility at the Center for Civil Discourse at UMass Boston.  His work involves the topic of civility and morality.

This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. www.masshumanities.org