Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

Radio Smart Talk: Civility in public discourse; chronic wasting disease

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Mar 19, 2013 12:11 PM

Radio Smart Talk for Wednesday, March 20:

Dems vs GOP 300 vs. 170.jpg

A Gallup poll conducted last December found almost seven in ten Americans said the nation is divided on its core values.  Those results probably didn't surprise many people who hear the loud, heated arguments on the issues of the day and conclude shrill is what characterizes most public debate.

Whether it was the stand-off in Washington over raising the nation's debt ceiling two-and-a-half years ago, the fiscal cliff debate late last year, or the federal budget sequester last month, Democrats and Republicans in Congress and in the White House apparently can't or won't compromise and sometimes don't even appear to be interested in finding solutions to problems.

The disagreements often seem personal too, marked by one side or the other demonizing the other and resorting to name calling.

Allegheny College in Meadville is encouraging civility in political discourse with an initiative through the school's Center for Political Participation.  The college presented the second annual Allegheny College Prize for Civility In Public Life last month to Senators Dianne Feinsteinn (D-California) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). 

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Allegheny College President Dr. James Mullen will appear on Wednesday's Radio Smart Talk to explain why in his opinion, civility is so important in a democracy.

Also, two deer in the wild were recently diagnosed for the first time in Pennsylvania with chronic wasting disease.  The Pennsylvania Game Commission's Robert Boyd will tell us about the disease and who or what are at risk.


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  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-03-20 08:19

    Email from Edward:

    There is nothing wrong with passion in discourse and a big difference between that and rudeness.

    Calling the president a "liar" during a speech, is not acceptable for example, while questioning his stance in a press conference is.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-03-20 08:25

    Email from Manuel, Carlisle:

    I am 44 years old, and when I was in elementary AND secondary school, we were instructed on civility, manners, etiquette and morality every year at one or more points. Today, there is no longer any instruction given as these are believed to be moral issues which cannot be legislated or instruction given for.

    When people are civil, they learn better and grow to be better citizens with far less cynicism.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-03-20 08:26

    Email from Michael, Dillsburg:
    The basis of what I have to say goes all the way back to Senator Brooks' caning of Senator Sumner on the Senate floor before the Civil War, to the accusation that a Thomas Jefferson victory in 1800 would result in mass incest, and beyond.

    More civility in politics today? Two words: Good luck.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-03-20 08:27

    Email from Becky, Carlisle:

    When Rep. Joe Wilson yelled "You lie" during a speech on health care reform by President Obama before both Houses of Congress, a kind of awful tipping point in public incivility was reached. Does Dr. Mullen believe Rep. Wilson should have been immediately expelled from chambers (not from his Congressional position) as a means of indicating that such incivility would not be tolerated?

    My parents both graduated from Allegheny, by the way, and my dad still lives in Meadville and loves the college!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-03-20 08:34

    Email from Jerry S.

    When Diane R, was on your show she asked when did our society begin to think that you had to talk loudly to get your point across. I think we can directly contribute this to TV and radio commentators.

    There is no doubt in my mind that TV has been a major influence in the current aggressiveness and uncivilized discussions we have as a nation

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-03-20 08:47

    Email from Kate, Yoe:

    I think that our larger culture places too much value on style over substance. We are entertained by clever remarks and quick quips over substance and reason. We applaud snarky sound bites and biting sarcasm, which are more fun than hard news.Few of us take the time to undertake the difficult work of examining issues in depth, or making comparative analysis of complex, contradictory social concerns. Many news broadcasts limit their coverage to a few seconds of superficial comments. The average listener doesn't get enough information to make reasoned judgements. I am thankful for NPR, PBS and broadcasts like this that make me a smarter, more thoughtful citizen.

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