John Rose, associate director of the Arete Initiative at Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, joined us on our latest podcast to discuss his recent Wall Street Journal column about how he nurtures true civil discourse in his classroom and what he has learned from the experience. While helping to coordinate Arete’s programming, Rose teaches courses in happiness and human flourishing, Christian ethics, conservatism, and political polarization. He was interviewed by Lawrence Haas, a board member of Princetonians for Free Speech.
Rose revealed that he learned – from speaking with students privately in one-on-one settings – that many of them wanted to engage in honest debate, to explore all sides of complicated issues, but were afraid to do so. When he surveyed 110 students anonymously this spring, 68 percent of them revealed that they censor themselves on certain political topics, even with good friends. Nevertheless, Rose found a way to nurture honest debate in his classroom. After establishing rules that, among other things, allowed for the airing of differing opinions and assumed good will on all sides, he watched his students “flourish,” as he put it. They discussed such hot-button issues as critical race theory and abortion. But, as he acknowledges, whether other teachers, at Duke and on other campuses, try to follow his lead remains very much an open question.