Civil discourse has been a long-standing tradition in American politics and society. Since the campaign season that began in 2007, civil discourse has suffered a slow and agonizing death. Last night I had an experience that not only infuriated me but led me block someone who had “friended” me on Facebook. It wasn’t that I disagreed with this person’s opinion as much as I objected to personal attacks because I did not share their view of racial relations or economics within the United States.
Social justice is a term that has been a part of American politics since the mid 1960s. Unfortunately, there is no national understanding on exactly what this term means. As an American historian that has spent considerable time studying the history of the early republic, there was a strong desire to create a nation founded on the concept of equality under the law. Men such as Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison had grown up in a society where one’s social status was dictated by birth. Each of those men, held high in regard by the American colonials, were, in the eyes of the English elite, commoners without any claim to the benefits of nobility.
College students are asking a lot of questions. They aren’t looking for the bullet point stock answers provided by the American mainstream media and Liberals within the college and university system. Unfortunately, there’s not many other places they can go to find the answers they seek. Since the summer semester of 2009, I decided that if students asked my my opinion, I would answer their questions after class or during my office hours. In those early days I would see an average of about three college student a week. This semester, partly driven out of fear over the national elections in November, a dozen students regularly contact me either through email, text message, phone calls, and Facebook in addition to my office hours and times before and after class.