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Lions Roar : January 2005
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2005 93 I would like to see the kind of civics education that was pres- ent when I was in school but seems to be absent from the stu- dent’s education today. I don’t mean just learning how govern- ment works, but talking and learning about these virtues of cit- izenship—where they come from and what they mean. Because without them, really, all of this we have talked about today is likely to get worse. SCHROEDER: It’s important to get our political system away from commercials and more into debates. In this past presiden- tial election, after all the commercials screaming back and forth, the two men sat side-by-side and debated some serious ques- tions, and that caused a huge change in the polls. That gives me great hope that if we could find a mechanism to emphasize that kind of discussion, instead of turning the political process over to people who sell toothpaste, we might do a lot to raise the national level of discourse. All the commercials did whipsaw people around, there’s no question about it, but when people tuned in and saw the two of them standing side by side, dis- cussing some serious issues, it gave me great hope that at the end of the day the American people can come to their senses if they are approached in a sensible manner. ROSENBERG:Ithink there is an appetitefor serious discussion, but I don’t think that will happen until the people get the media back under their control, like our founders wanted. The media Civility continued from page 59 ROSENBERG: That’s what we are trying to figure out.How can we really have quality discourse? What kind of discourse do we need to have? We have all been educated to communicate in a way that satisfies domination structures. We have been taught to be obedient to authorities and not to think for ourselves much. So we’ve got to liberate ourselves from the way we have been educated, both in public schools and by the media. Once we have done that, we have to change the structures that are controlling most forms of public discourse. K I N G W E L L : You know, the centerpiece of all liberal thinking in the past four hundred years has been that we can disagree on one level as long as we agree on another level. That other level is sup- posed to be a discursive space that we are willing to share, or at a minimum some kind of legal and electoral constraints that we all sign on for. I think the problem is that we don’t have any clear sense of what that second level is, or even whether there is one. What I would suggest, and it’s not a total solution, is that we have to start thinking very carefully about finding what the philosopher John Rawls calls an “overlapping consensus.” It may involve only a narrow range of issues, but they are certainly pres- ent. Then this consensus becomes the focus for cultivating the virtues of the liberal citizen, including civility, and we can use it to educate future citizens as they enter the public realm.