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Discussion group offers civil conversation in an uncivil world

In a small classroom on the campus of Beaufort County Community College, big discussions of current events are at the heart of a new discussion group. Organized through the college’s Continuing Education department, the group tackles topics ranging from state and national headlines to important local issues.

Meeting on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, the group’s environment is casual, but the topics are weighty. On Thursday, the group’s conversations ran the gauntlet, touching on healthcare, mental health services in Beaufort County and the national topic of immigration.

Group moderator Polk Culpepper says that diverse opinions are not only welcomed, but also highly encouraged. It is his hope that the group will serve as a forum to discuss big issues, having the conversation without the noise of the shouting match that has come to define American politics.

“I, like millions of other people throughout the country, have observed lately that we seem to be divided into camps, mostly on our opinions on national political and economic issues,” Culpepper said. “One camp is red and one camp is blue, to the extent we find it difficult to engage in civil conversation, even on a local level. … I wanted to get together a group that could begin to learn from one another how to talk with one another in a civil manner; to help us learn to disagree without being disagreeable.”

While the group has some who lean more conservative and others with a liberal bent, the atmosphere is one of respect and civility. Together, the participants flesh out the issues through discussion, sometimes making connections between events at the local, state and national level.

“I think the process (of the discussion group) helps us flesh out the issues in a non-antagonistic way, so that we can all listen to one another, even when the other person disagrees with us,” Culpepper said. “Until we can do that as a nation, or even at the state and local level, until we can talk with one another in a respectful manner, I don’t think there’s much hope of solving our problems.”

The Current Events Discussion Group meets from 10 a.m. to noon every second and fourth Friday in BCCC Building 8, room 828. The current group will continue meeting through Dec. 5, and the cost to participate for the semester is $15. Culpepper says if the group continues strong, another session may be offered during the spring semester.

For more information, or to register, contact the BCCC Department of Continuing Education at 252-940-6375 or email continuingeducation@beaufortccc.edu.