Photo by Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, Flickr CC
Across the United States, a central fear continues to grow: America’s civic fabric is beginning to fray. Three-fourths of Americans believe incivility today has risen to crisis level, and 70% think civility has worsened since President Trump’s election. Unsurprisingly, trust in essential institutions – especially Congress and the media – has plummeted, and nearly 60% report checking out of politics because of the increasingly negative tone.
There has, of course, been the requisite gnashing of teeth about this deplorable development, with plenty of fingers pointing blame in plenty of directions, from the antagonistic echo chambers of cable television to the rise of social media to the decline of civic education to Donald Trump himself. But there has also been sincere effort to stem the incivility tide, including the creation of various civility challenges, the founding of civil discourse platforms, an investment in civility training, and a renewed focus on learning how to communicate – and especially listen – to one another.
At Boise State University, President Bob Kustra has led the charge to understand and combat the harmful effects of incivility. In 2016, Kustra’s leadership spurred Patriotic Choices, a campus-wide, year-long initiative organized around the tumultuous presidential campaign. This initiative was an attempt to remain engaged institutionally in the civic space, to show students and community members alike that politics can be discussed and conducted in healthy and empowering ways.
This new series, Perspectives on Civility, is one small way of building on the successes of that investment. Published by The Blue Review, Perspectives on Civility will bring together a range of approaches to not only the concept of civility, but also civil discourse and civic engagement. Contributions will come from a diverse range of community members, both on campus and throughout the Boise area, and will appear periodically over the rest of the fall and well into 2018. Together, these perspectives will provide wide-ranging insight into how some of our community’s most thoughtful and engaged citizens view this incredibly important dimension of our current civic life.
Justin S. Vaughn, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief, The Blue Review
Director, Center for Idaho History and Politics