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New Center Urges A Return To Civil Discourse In Politics22:59
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Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., center, ignited calls for more civility in public discourse after yelling "You lie" to President Obama during a 2009 address to a joint session of Congress. (AP)
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., center, ignited calls for more civility in public discourse after yelling "You lie" to President Obama during a 2009 address to a joint session of Congress. (AP)

It was not so long ago that Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., called President Obama a liar during a joint session of Congress in 2009. And that's just one of a myriad examples that the political rhetoric in Washington is not always polite. But is extreme rhetoric actually poisoning political debate and threatening democracy?

A new academic center in Boston thinks so. It's called the Center for Civil Discourse at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and on Friday it will be hosting a national forum on "Civility and American Democracy." Those titles speak for themselves. (Full disclosure: WBUR is a forum partner.)

So does there need to be a reset in how we respect one another in the public square? Or are there issues of such importance that being civil is simply beside the point?

Guests:

  • Ira Jackson, advisory board chair, Center for Civil Discourse at UMass Boston.
  • John Stauffer, professor of English and African American studies, Harvard University.

More:

This segment aired on February 16, 2012.

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