If you haven’t heard, the University of Arizona will announce on Monday the establishment of a new alma mater, to be called the Institute for Civil Discourse. The effort to institutionalize its important new curriculum — which will target militaristic metaphors, contumacious dissent-mongering, and other unseemly manifestations of political faction — was triggered by the recent tragedy in Tucson, in which intemperate articulation of right-wing opinions led directly to violent mayhem. The Institute’s frontal assault on indelicacy of expression will be spearheaded by former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, who seem determined to take no prisoners when it comes to winning the war against petulance in politics.
It’s going to be an uphill battle, according to Institute founder Fred DuVal, vice-chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents:
“How do we nurture robustness on one hand and not in any way chill speech, and keep it in bounds that are not destructive to democracy?” he said. “Will it change the nature of dialogue? That will be a tall order.”
Anyway, I’m awfully relieved to hear that the University of Arizona is leading the charge here. After all, it’s a cinch that the I.C.D. won’t accomplish a blessed thing (other than to plague us all, starting a few years hence, with its graduates). Meanwhile, I’d been pretty sure something big was in the works, and figured we’d likely be getting a whole new Cabinet department; to have a new college instead seems just fine.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I like it; this is going to be great. I wonder what they’ll call the football team!