Belittle. Dialogue. Derogatory. Motive.
These were a few of the words from a proposed civility code for the Akron area that a recent focus group flagged as terms an average member of the public might not understand.
John Green, director of the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, plans to use the input from the focus groups — along with the results of a recent poll of Akron-area adults — to help hone the code.
Green said he found the focus groups’ discussions of wording to be especially helpful. He said what an academic considers an understandable term might differ from an average citizen.
“A number of people had problems with the word ‘dialogue,’ ” he said. “I started thinking, ‘How do you say it so that people get it?’ One of the people said ‘conversation.’ I thought, ‘Yeah.’ People at the university might say ‘dialogue,’ but, outside, they use ‘conversation.’ ”
Green and others at Bliss are editing the code and turning it into documents that can be used in different situations. For example, they want to develop a wallet-size version that people can carry with them.
The code will be used to gauge the civility of comments made by the presidential candidates or their campaigns this fall, with the results shared with the public. The code also will be used in the community to help promote positive exchanges, with the first step being a public meeting in mid-September, when the standards will be outlined, disseminated and discussed.
“We want to recruit people to take the standards out into different aspects of the community to talk about them,” Green said. “We want them to get excited about using them.”
A group of local faith leaders also may approach local candidates about pledging to follow the code and ask media outlets not to accept advertising that runs afoul of the standards.
“That is still being decided,” Green said. “We are very interested in doing it. Everybody we have talked to is very positive about it. The logistics are difficult. We are still working on that.”
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Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith.