Pushing Back against Campus Intolerance


Perhaps the most frightening thing about our college campuses these days is the extent to which students believe that people who say “bad” things should be silenced. Ideological intolerance is raging and seems to be growing more intense.

At least, there is some resistance to it. UNC-Chapel Hill has begun a program called the Program for Public Discourse (PPD) which is meant to prepare students for civic engagement with people who won’t always agree with them. In today’s Martin Center article, Shannon Watkins interviews the PPD’s director, Professor Sarah Treul.

Treul says, “Through its emphasis on incorporating structured deliberation in the classroom, and also by showcasing debate and respect for alternative points and opinions in our public events, the Program for Public Discourse will give students the necessary skills to engage with the most pressing questions facing society. Oftentimes, these pressing questions are of course controversial, which is where giving them a framework for deliberation becomes so important.”

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PPD hosts events that model constructive dialogue between opposing points of view. It has a curricular component, endeavoring to bring constructive dialogue into the classroom.

Professor Truel says that the feedback on the PPD program has been overwhelmingly positive, and they plan to expand it.

Maybe this is like fighting a forest fire with a garden hose, but bravo to UNC for making this effort.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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