In the current era of polarized politics, universities have become increasingly inhospitable to respectful dialogue, free expression, and intellectual humility. Universities and colleges should instead provide models for the practice of these values, and be places where the behaviors and virtues necessary for constructive disagreement flourish. What college graduates have absorbed on campus will quickly influence the values and behavior of government, businesses, media, religious organizations, and society at large.
Our project will answer the question: “In what ways can we provide replicable and sustainable models that strengthen and improve the character and culture of higher education?” To address this question, Braver Angels, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and BridgeUSA have forged a partnership to promote civility, intellectual humility, and the free exchange of ideas on campuses through a college discourse program.
Centered around carefully-designed debates, we will establish self-sustaining communities of practice that develop moral, intellectual and civic character on campus. We will establish faculty and student cohorts on 10 campuses, engaging at least 2,000 students over 2 years; we will develop toolkits with which educators can incorporate debates and discourse into lesson plans; organize symposia for cohorts to identify and refine best practices; and build an evaluation model to measure the renewal of intellectual humility and civility on campus in preparation for wide scaling.
The project will encourage the virtues necessary for robust intellectual engagement, with a particular focus on intellectual humility, patience, self-control, respect, tolerance, and a host of skills in public speaking and critical thinking. Our expectation is that these programs will help shift campus culture toward productive ideological diversity, build a self-sustaining student movement for civil discourse, and cultivate leaders to carry the momentum forward.