Rational dialogue is not enough to heal divided campuses, writes Chronicle contributor

October 20, 2016

Calls for open and respectful dialogue on campus often fail to recognize that “civility might not be enough to open the discourse,” writes Philip Alcabes for the Chronicle of Higher Education. The author reflects on how progressive academics who once fought for the open, rational exchange of ideas may now feel disturbed to find students calling for protection from uncomfortable topics or opinions. Yet as Alcabes notes, the commitment to civility and reason will only create open dialogue if the speakers already share a certain level of “cultural consensus,” which becomes less common as the university becomes more diverse. To this end, the author concludes that “the open-minded campus was itself, at least partly, an aspirational myth. It excluded the poor, the dark-skinned, the disabled, and others from higher education. It was a dream of the academic liberal-left at a time when their interlocutors were likely to differ from them only in ideas, not in life experiences.” Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)