What is Civil Discourse?

Audience listening

One of the most important educational, political, and social issues of today is how best to have a civil conversation in a democratic society. Our past, present, and future depend on this essential process: citizens gather, listen to each other, debate, make up their minds, and determine a course of action.

Polarization of opinions, coupled with the speed and access of the digital age have made it more difficult to keep our conversations civil in America today. From shouting matches, to opinionated blog posts, to rhetoric-filled political debates, we are confronted every day with uncivil conversation.

Civil Discourse is

  • Truthful
  • Productive
  • Audience-based
  • About listening and talking
  • Each Speaker's own responsibility

Civil Discourse is not

  • Mere politeness
  • An exercise in martyrdom
  • About telling other people who they are
  • Purely performative
Lara Schwartz

Message from the Director

The American University Project on Civil Discourse is led by Director Lara Schwartz, who teaches in the AU School of Public Affairs.

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