Public policy and politics can be difficult to learn about and sensitive to discuss, especially for students who may have had limited exposure before pursuing higher education. The Politically Incorrect Club at the University of North Georgia's Gainesville Campus seeks to provide students with an open, friendly and non-party affiliated forum designed to help them learn about and discuss these subjects. Dr. Douglas Young, professor of political science and history and faculty advisor for Politically Incorrect, talks about the club and how it achieves its mission.
What are some of the most common issues the club helps address for students?
At each weekly meeting, the students propose the public policy concerns and political news events they are most interested in examining before voting on which to explore and debate first. Whatever topics fire up the students the most get dissected the most thoroughly. Everyone is encouraged to give honest, uncensored opinions on every issue. As moderator and devil's advocate, I make sure everyone gets to speak and, if most or all the students talking are on the same side, I will try to make a case for the opposite view to expose the club members to a variety of perspectives.
Why is it important for students to learn about these subjects and how to discuss them with others?
People should freely and frankly explore, analyze and debate the nation's problems and proposed public policies to solve them. We cannot expect Americans to be inspired to vote in political elections for the candidates who best reflect their beliefs and values if they are discouraged from candidly discussing and debating them.
On the first day of class, I ask my students how many of them were allowed to discuss controversial issues in a high school classroom. Usually only between 30 and 40 percent of the students raise their hands. In many classes less than 20 percent do. In one class, no one did.
Many high schools avoid broaching topics such as abortion, affirmative action, drugs, homosexual rights, immigration, school prayer, taxes, wars, welfare, etc., in class. These are the very issues around which our nation's politics, election campaigns, and public policies revolve. If we cannot discuss these vitally important issues in a mature, analytical manner in an educational setting, where can we? This makes me grateful that UNG encourages free thought and open debate.
How does the club improve discourse between members who may have different political views?
Perhaps the club's most enduring motto is, "There is no such thing as a politically correct or incorrect opinion." We want to provide a safe and fun place for students to freely discuss issues they care about. We try to help each student learn to think critically, analytically and independently.
In the club, there is no profanity, finger-pointing, shouting, or name-calling. Mutual respect and civil discourse prevail. The club proves every week that people from all across the political spectrum can freely and honestly discuss every issue in a mutually respectful way and have a good time to boot.
The club has hosted dozens of state and local political figures over the last 14-plus years, and also visits many places of political and historical import. The P.I. students are a wonderful group who personify the greatest type of diversity of all: a diversity of ideas.