U hosts radio conversation series

The political discussions will take place at the Humphrey School.

Brian Arola

The University of Minnesota will host a radio project Wednesday that attempts to create civil conversation on highly political topics.

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs will host the unique series of political discussions for free.

The Civil Conversations Project, hosted by Krista Tippett of the award-winning radio show “On Being,” seeks to bring opposing activists together in discussion on contentious issues.

Wednesday’s conversation will feature Frances Kissling  and David Gushee, two activists from both sides of the reproductive rights issue.

Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the Humphrey School who’s coordinating the program, said the style of these discussions can help create understanding.

“This project is an innovative attempt to link together folks who are debating the big social issues — from gay marriage to issues related to life and choice — to talk to each other instead of yelling at each other.”

Jacobs said the topics discussed should be particularly interesting to college students.

“These are the issues most passionately felt by students, issues about life and choice, about what marriage means today,” he said. “These are some real hot button issues in which there is a generational divide.”

Tippet said the debates don’t necessarily seek to find a single solution to the issues.

“Something that I feel very strongly has gone wrong with our public discourse on these things is an idea that we should agree, that that’s a goal,” she said.

Far too many discussions on topics like these start out hyper-partisan and drive people further apart, Tippet said. That style is “really fraying our democracy.”

These conversations aren’t just about the issues though.

“We’re really not going to be talking about positions and issues as much as how to be in relationships with each other, how to approach these things as human beings and approach each other as human beings even when we really hold passionate disagreements,” she said.

The series also serves as a platform for religious dialogue.

“It’s become a real forum for civil conversations among people in the faith community and the spiritual community who are looking for an alternative to the acrimony and nastiness of the public space today,” Jacobs said.

The series will be broadcast live on Ustream  — a video streaming website — and onbeing.org.

The hosts will field question from online viewers.

The first discussion was in early September and the next will be at 3 p.m. on Sept. 26 in Cowles Auditorium  at the Humphrey School.

Students can get a free ticket from onbeing.org.

The next conversation at the University will be about the definition of marriage on Oct. 10.