Talking Politics: Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable

Randi Chmielewski (Eagleton Institute of Politics)
Elizabeth Matto (Eagleton Institute of Politics)

In order for democracy to work, citizens need to be able to talk to each other. Addressing public policy challenges such as stable economic growth, health care, and college affordability requires reasoned deliberation, critical thinking, and open and civil discourse—the exchange of ideas from different perspectives based on shared facts and conducted with respect and curiosity. Unfortunately, such models of political discussion can be few and far between in contemporary American politics. This seminar considers why engaging in honest but civil political discussion is integral to American democracy’s success and explores productive ways to go about it. Topics that we’ll consider include: What are the effects of adversarial political interactions on the political process? What steps can be taken to ensure that political discussions are productive? How can we have respectful and honest conversations about public problems and their proposed solutions when we disagree? Students will observe and analyze a range of political exchanges, such as contemporary and historical candidate debates, legislative sessions, and media coverage. The course will also provide opportunities for direct interactions with political practitioners.

Course Number: 
01:090:101 section 60 index 08031