Civility and Free Expression: A Colorado Conversation
December 6, 2012
Tivoli Center at the Auraria Campus, Denver
The Center for Education in Law and Democracy hosted a community dialogue on civility and controversial Colorado issues. Participants gathered in small-group facilitated conversations on pre-selected issues including: education reform, state and federal responses to the legalization of marijuana, in-state tuition for unauthorized immigrants, guns on college campuses, the Tabor Amendment, and race relations.
Buie Seawell started off the evening by introducing the topic of civility, asking community members to consider several questions throughout the night. He reflected on three dimensions of civility.
- Civility and Consent: How do we achieve Thomas Jefferson’s notion in the Declaration of Independence of a “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed” without civility?
- Civility and Candor: How is civility possible when there are such deeply divisive issues facing the republic charged both by emotion and religious conviction? Isn’t it a time for real candor? Is civility a robust enough virtue for the kind of questions we need to be addressing? Civility must not be the enemy of candor.
- Civility and Utility: Our democracy was founded on the concept to utilitarian compromise for the resolution of most issues-taxes, public programs, level of indebtedness and functions of government. There is a short list of absolutes, The Bill of Rights, and even these are not truly absolute. Legislatures of necessity do the utilitarian calculus and determine the greatest good for the greatest number. And yet we live in a time of uncompromising principles often religious in nature, dominating the public debate.