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. 

Speaker:  Buie Seawell

Buie Seawell is Clinical Professor, Department of Business Ethics and Legal Studies at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. He received the Teacher of the Year Award from the University of Denver in 2003.

Seawell formerly served on the cabinet of Governor Richard Lamm; as Chief of Staff for U.S. Senator Gary Hart, and he chaired the Colorado Democratic Party. He has degrees in law from Denver University, theology from Union Presbyterian Seminary, and in history from Davidson College. 

Educating for Citizenship: Civility and Free Expression

28th Annual Colorado Civic Education Conference

December 7, 2012

Denver, Colorado

Government, history, and civics teachers from across the state attended the conference for a day of sessions that provided classroom content, resources, and best practice strategies for educating students.


Keynote speaker: Diana Hess 

Diana E. Hess is Senior Vice President at the Spencer Foundation and Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Hess is the author of Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion (2009), which received the 2009 exemplary research award from the National Council for the Social Studies. Hess earned her PhD in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on constitutional law at the University of Washington in Seattle.