If you cringe at the thought of another political season, with all of its ugly barbs, you might be comforted to know that three community groups and some politicians are working for civility.
A former college professor has formed Civility Dynamics and will present three “intellectual consciousness-raising” workshops at a local library beginning tonight.
A Bath Township man has started Better Outcomes Political Forums to bring the disciplines of a trained mediator to political debates.
A Wadsworth group continues to discuss current events on public-access television while waiting for tax-exempt status to fund its civility promotions.
Joy Marsella, former English professor at the University of Hawaii, has returned to Akron. Her Civility Dynamics company will hold three sessions at the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Fairlawn-Bath Branch, 3101 Smith Road.
The workshops are based on the principles of rhetoric.
“My September workshops focus on giving people tools to understand themselves and others as civic beings,” she said. “Most of us fail, I think, to realize the incredible complexity of the concept of civility — its personal, familial, community, and so on up to national — ramifications.”
Tonight’s session focuses on Identity and starts at 6:30 p.m.
“The heart of the workshop is devoted to scenarios in which participants apply their own identity traits, such as race, class and age, to contentious situations,” Marsella said. “They analyze how these traits place them at advantage or disadvantage, implicate their sense of self, and shape their opportunities for [in]civility.”
Additional workshops will be Sept. 18 on Listening and Sept. 25 on Connections.
Louis H. Kraus of Bath is another who wants to influence dialog. He is a mediator who wants to bring order and rationality to the political process, particularly debates.
Kraus’ Better Outcomes Political Forums will seek to bring order to political debates.
“Better Outcomes assists you in selecting the really important issues and what questions to ask,” Kraus says in a promotional letter.
He also would establish ground rules for the debate and teach moderators to pin down politicians who give vague answers.
“When we ask a question, we expect an answer we can understand,” Kraus writes in an overview of his plans. “If we are given an answer we don’t understand, we ask the person to whom we are speaking to clarify it for us.”
In addition to the disciplines of a mediator, Kraus said his organization is “based on the Old Testament commandments enumerated by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan in his work about how we should speak to each other, the Chofetz Chaim.”
He also draws from the work of Deborah Tannen, author of The Argument Culture, and Amitai Etzioni’s The New Golden Rule. Kraus can be reached at LHK@getbetteroutcomes.org.
In Wadsworth, Right and Left Inc. has recorded 17 television shows on current events with an emphasis on civility. Executive Director John Grom said the group continues to seek tax-exempt status more than a year after applying. He believes he might be the victim of profiling by the Internal Revenue Service.
Eventually, Grom wants to raise funds to present the television show across the nation, form a speakers bureau and promote civility through local advertising, a presence at community activities and Internet advertising.
Right and Left’s shows are online at http://my.pegcentral.com/.
Also this year, members of the Ohio legislature have begun an effort to bring civility to Ohio politics.
In 2012, the Beacon Journal, the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and the faith community began collaboration on a project examining civility through all aspects of life. Focus groups and polling were the foundation of the project, which continues this year.
The stories on that project, called the America Today/Ohio Civility Project, can be found at www.ohio.com/special-projects/civility.
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or email@example.com. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.