U Florida Students Practice Civil Debate

Ashley Thorne

Inside Higher Ed reports that the University of Florida is conducting an experiment worthy of a marketplace of ideas. With a $3 million grant from the Knight Foundation, the University recently put up a “Civil Debate Wall”: five wall-mounted touch screens with questions about controversial topics, such as “Is wealth distributed fairly in the United States?” Student passers-by have the opportunity to respond in short opinion statements. A camera overhead snaps a headshot, and the person’s response, picture, and first name go up on a screen.

It seems like a good idea for getting students accustomed to an attitude of respectful debate on a college campus. Ann Henderson, the university staff member who established the wall, told Inside Higher Ed she hopes it will help students learn to take a stand on hot-button issues but to do it with courtesy:

“We’re trying to say you can disagree with somebody, you can do it civilly, you can do it with respect,” she said.

That’s especially important, she said, at a time when political issues are polarizing and debate can be bitter. “At the end of the day, it’s not just about being polite,” Henderson said, “it’s about how to function in a democracy when you believe that and I believe this.” 

  • Share

Most Commented

May 7, 2024


Creating Students, Not Activists

The mobs desecrating the American flag, smashing windows, chanting genocidal slogans—this always was the end game of the advocates of the right to protest, action civics, student activ......

March 9, 2024


A Portrait of Claireve Grandjouan

Claireve Grandjouan, when I knew her, was Head of the Classics Department at Hunter College, and that year gave a three-hour Friday evening class in Egyptian archaeology....

April 20, 2024


The Academic's Roadmap

By all means, pursue your noble dream of improving the condition of humanity through your research and teaching. Could I do it all again, I would, but I would do things very differently....

Most Read

May 15, 2015


Where Did We Get the Idea That Only White People Can Be Racist?

A look at the double standard that has arisen regarding racism, illustrated recently by the reaction to a black professor's biased comments on Twitter....

June 5, 2024


Subpoenas for All!

Ohio Northern University knaws its teeth with an appitite for vindictive lawfare....

October 12, 2010


Ask a Scholar: What is the True Definition of Latino?

What does it mean to be Latino? Are only Latin American people Latino, or does the term apply to anyone whose language derived from Latin?...