COM 114: The Lost Art of Civility

Course Description

This course will focus on civil discourse, which is the process through which people come together to discuss and debate, find shared knowledge, and enhance understanding. Topics include:  the state of civility in society today, free speech, the psychology of cognitive bias, the structure of productive debate and argument, engaged listening and conversation across difference.  By the end of the course, students will have practiced, through reading, writing, listening, and speaking, the art of civility and civil discourse, and will be able to bring these skills to their communities, companies, organizations, and families. 

Note: Does not contribute to Written or Oral Communication General Education requirements

(1 Credit)


  • None

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  1. Explain civil discourse.
  2. Recognize what the first amendment does and doesn’t protect.
  3. Develop Classroom Guidelines for Civil Discourse.
  4. Explain and Identify Cognitive Bias, Echo Chambers, Biased Media, Facts vs Opinion.
  5. Describe effective methods of writing and refuting an argument.
  6. Evaluate effective arguments and counterarguments.
  7. Write effective arguments and counterarguments.
  8. Define engaged listening, and oral history listening and interviewing skills.
  9. Practice engaged and empathetic listening for understanding and finding shared knowledge and common ground.
  10. Critique a conversation or interview encounter.

Course Activities and Grading


8 Discussions (Weeks 1- 5)



5 Wiki Entries (Weeks 1-5)



OpEd Project (Weeks 3-4)



Interview Project (Week 5)



Final Paper (Week 5)






Required Textbooks

  • This course uses Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are openly licensed, educational resources that can be used for teaching, learning and research. OER may consist of a variety of resources such as textbooks, videos and software that are no cost for students.


Course Schedule



Readings and Exercises




Topics: Writing and Storytelling

  • Review the syllabus
  • Read assigned material
  • Review the lecture material
  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Add a word/phrase and definition to the Class Wiki



Topics: Cognitive Bias, Echo Chambers, Biased Media, Fact vs Opinion.



Topics: Writing Effective Arguments

  • Read assigned material
  • Review the lecture material
  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Add a word/phrase and definition to the Class Wiki
  • Submit a draft of an OpEd about an issue important to you using the rubric
  • Write a critique/annotation of one of the OpEds that you read.  Was it an effective argument?  Look for the parts of OpEds/Refutation and note if and where you found them.



Topic: Learning to Listen

  • View videos
  • Review the lecture material
  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Add a word/phrase and definition to the Class Wiki
  • Submit a final version of your OpEd, incorporating the comments/suggestions
  • Add the OpEd to the class discussion board, and comment on another student’s OpEd, particularly if you have a different perspective or disagree.    



Topics: Practice Engaged and Empathetic Listening

  • Participate in the Discussions
  • Complete Wiki
  • Submit the recorded interview for feedback
  • Submit Final Paper
  • Complete Course evaluation


Record a Conversation/Interview with a Classmate that explores a topic of your choice. It could be something from their introduction, or a topic that has come up during our class (in the OpEd section), or another issue of your choosing about which you hold a strong opinion. Practice engaged and empathetic listening for understanding across difference and/or finding common ground.

Final Paper
  1. Write a 3- 5 page essay about your interview encounter or about discussions from our Class Discussions and moments where you used or became aware of topics we have discussed during class. Refer to the things we’ve read, watched and listened to, and our wiki. 
  2. Talk about how you used civil discourse skills during the conversation. Use transcribed quotes from your interview to illustrate.
  3. Describe your conclusions: did your opinion of the issue change?  Did you come to understand a different point of view?
  4. What do you think about the tools of civil discourse? Use the skills of arguing and refuting to talk about what works and what you think doesn’t work.

COSC Accessibility Statement

Charter Oak State College encourages students with disabilities, including non-visible disabilities such as chronic diseases, learning disabilities, head injury, attention deficit/hyperactive disorder, or psychiatric disabilities, to discuss appropriate accommodations with the Office of Accessibility Services at

COSC Policies, Course Policies, Academic Support Services and Resources

Students are responsible for knowing all Charter Oak State College (COSC) institutional policies, course-specific policies, procedures, and available academic support services and resources. Please see COSC Policies for COSC institutional policies, and see also specific policies related to this course. See COSC Resources for information regarding available academic support services and resources.