About 80 people told the Ohio Civility Project that improved public discourse is a priority and provided ideas to make it happen during a brainstorming session Monday at Quaker Station in Akron.
The project was formed earlier this year by the Akron Beacon Journal, the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron, the University of Mount Union, Cleveland State University, Love Akron, Heart to Heart Communications, the Civic Commons, Round River Consulting/AmericaSpeaks and the Akron Neighborhood Trust.
The project has created a civility test published twice a week in the Beacon Journal that is used to grade the intensity of political ads.
People at Monday’s meeting were gathered at tables of five or six people and asked to look at the civility test and consider approaching local politicians to talk about the test’s principles.
A similar idea was attempted by the Beacon Journal this summer. The questions never got posed as handlers for the politicians levied more attacks on opponents.
The participants were asked to report back on their results.
The gathering also was asked to offer ideas for how to promote civility. Here are some of them:
• Hold a town meeting to discuss civility and other ideas to “find out where people are coming from.”
• Distribute a petition among religious leaders calling for them to be “nonpartisan in the pulpit.”
• Teach the public communication skills including “explaining our position without trying to change the other person’s mind.” Others emphasized the importance of choosing the right words and using “inclusive language.”
• Find examples of communities where civility in politics exists and “prove that this is doable.”
• Start a “civil tongue movement” using the power of advertising in a way that’s similar to the anti-smoking campaigns of previous years to promote civility and related ideas.
• Take the civility test to schools and ask students to pledge to it.
• Have the Beacon Journal dedicate an entire day to reporting only good news.
• Gather people with varying political beliefs to hear the debates together.
Additional civility stories are collected at http://www.ohio.com/special-projects/civility. Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.