Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lessons in Civility

In the wake of the recent Tucson shooting tragedy, the University of Arizona has decided to create a National Institute for Civil Discourse. Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton will serve as honorary chairmen for the center, which aims to study and promote a more measured and reasoned political debate.

Good luck with that one. By its very nature, politics is highly charged and extremely partisan--and it's been that way throughout our history. Think the current generation of TV attack ads is tough? How about LBJ's legendary "Daisy" spot, suggesting that Barry Goldwater wanted to unleash nuclear war on the planet. BTW, one of the architects of that ad was none other than Bill Moyers, the same guy who decries the "excesses" of right-wing talk radio.

Here are few more blasts from our (supposedly) more "civil" political past. The 1894 Republican Presidential nominee James G. Blaine was referred to as the "Continental Liar from the State of Maine." His Democratic opponent, Grover Cleveland, was tarred by accusations he fathered an illegitimate child. "Ma, ma, where's Pa?" Republicans countered, "Running for the White House, Ha, ha, ha." It was changed to "Gone to the White House" after Cleveland won. Ahh..civility.

Truth be told, the new institute won't do much to change public debate, but it will become a home for ex-politicians and more than a few PhDs in political science. Together, they can compile reports that no one will read and host seminars that fill up a few hours on C-SPAN.

Still, if the folks at U of A are serious about alerting the tone of our political debate, they might assemble a "mobile training team" for groups that really need help with civility and old-fashioned manners.

We refer specifically to the student body at Columbia University. During a recent debate on bringing ROTC back on campus, they heckled and booed a decorated Iraq war veteran who spoke on behalf of the military training program. He was shot eleven times in a firefight in Mosul and spent two years at Walter Reed recovering from his wounds. But to the enlightened students at Columbia, he was nothing more than a war-monger, unworthy of their respect--or attention.

In an editorial supporting the re-introduction of ROTC, the Columbia student newspaper hoped that the university's influence would help change the military. Based on the behavior we saw at that debate, we'd say Columbia is the institution in need of change--and a lesson in civility.


jay said...

Damn elites, etc, manufactured outrage and such.

Paul G. said...

Nice generalization 'journalism' about Columbia University. Are there idiot anti-military students, yeah, sure, but in trying to be fair and balanced you accidentally missed this:

Columbia University was named to the G.I. Jobs Military Friendly Schools 2011 List for the school's commitment to recruiting military veterans; this honor was also bestowed to Columbia in 2010. According to G.I. Jobs magazine, "the list honors the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools which are doing the most to embrace America’s veterans as students."

Columbia University has had a long-standing commitment to supporting military veterans who wish to return to school, and this commitment is especially evident at the School of General Studies, which was founded in 1947 largely to accommodate the thousands of GIs returning from World War II.

In 2009, GS renewed its commitment to student-veterans through the adoption of the Yellow Ribbon Program. When the Yellow Ribbon Program award is combined with benefits of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the entire cost of education for eligible student-veterans will be covered; making a Columbia education accessible regardless of socio-economic status. Since the program’s adoption, GS’ enrollment has grown to more than 140 veterans.


Unknown said...

Paul--Nice attempt to do a little spin for Columbia, and I will give them credit--but only to a point. Fact is, I work in higher education and the GI Jobs list, while widely circulated (and used in university marketing/promotion) isn't a very good gauge. There are lots of schools on that list that are military-friendly in name only, and don't do nearly enough to help vets advance academically.

BTW, my employer is also on the list, and yes, we use the designation in our military marketing. But we back up our claim with extensive programs for military personnel, particularly those on active duty, an area where many schools are lacking. For example, is Columbia a member of the Servicemembers Opportunity College (SOC), which facilitates the transfer of academic credit, reduces residency requirements and awards credit for military training and education? I can't find them on the list. That means that a vet enrolling at Columbia will essentially start off as an incoming freshman, no matter how much training and education he/she received in the military.

Additionally, Columbia doesn't belong to the SOCs that represent various branches of the military, serving their particular needs. My school, for example, has developed degree roadmaps for sailors in various Navy ratings, reflecting our status as a Navy distance learning partner. We also offer a tuition discount for active duty personnel, liberal policies on credit transfer, and academic credit for military schools/courses listed in the ACE Guide.

Is my school on the same academic plane as Columbia? No, but we are regionally-accredited (New England Association of Schools and Colleges), and we ranked as a Tier 1 school in the latest U.S. News and World Report survey.

Columbia is a world-class academic institution. But the campus environment is openly hostile to the U.S. military, as reflected by the recent ROTC debate. Columbia may be on the GIJobs.com list (and so are a lot of other schools), but they're got a ways to go in truly meeting the needs of military students. In fairness, Columbia seems to be in the forefront of bringing ROTC back to campus (or at least discussing it). But as long as much of the campus community is openly hostile to the military, ROTC (and military students) will face an uphill battle for acceptance.

Ron said...

When the leftists use the term "civility" they really mean "solidarity" as shown by the behavior of the dems in the Wisconsin House.