New ASU school aims to elevate the political discourse

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Editor’s note: Return to this page Friday for updates and photos from the launch of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

The notion that strong leadership and civil discourse are necessary in public affairs is ancient, going back to the great Greek thinkers and debaters who laid the foundation for modern democracy.

Lately, though, Paul Carrese feels that notion is woefully overlooked.

“Our political culture is in very bad shape, regardless of partisanship,” he said.

It’s something he hopes to change as director of Arizona State University’s new School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. The official school launch will take place at 7:30 a.m. Friday in the First Amendment Forum of the Walter Cronkite building on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Roughly 150 guests are expected to attend, including Carrese, ASU President Michael Crow, Gov. Doug Ducey and other elected officials.

“America and other liberal democracies need to provide space in universities to think about politics, public affairs, leadership and civic society in a way that allows for the search for common good,” Carrese said.

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership will combine the principles and ideals of two existing ASU centers — the Center for Political Thought and Leadership and the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty — to provide a unique curriculum that reinforces traditional learning of time-honored knowledge while encouraging students to get real-world experience.

“The mission of the school will be to introduce students to the great philosophical debates across centuries through classic texts, and to use those texts and debates to prepare them for civic-minded leadership in the future,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“America and other liberal democracies need to provide space in universities to think about politics, public affairs, leadership and civic society in a way that allows for the search for common good.”

— Paul Carrese, director of ASU’s new School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

School faculty and staff also will help guide students toward internship opportunities, whether in government, business or non-governmental organizations, on both a local and state level. Carrese has identified four major metropolitan areas — Arizona, Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C. — in which he hopes to eventually place students in internships.

Courses for the school’s bachelor’s degree in “Great Ideas and Leadership” are now available in the course catalog and will begin in the upcoming fall semester. More developments are underway, including a graduate program and a visiting-scholars program.

All of that will be supplemented by an extensive regular program of lectures and public dialogues to provide a model of civil debate for students, faculty, staff and the community at large. The value of reasonably and effectively working through disagreements is something we all need to be reminded of right now, Carrese said.

The first of such public colloquiums will take place Friday at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe. “Leadership and Politics in America After Election 2016” will consist of three separate talks: “The Meaning of Election 2016”; “Public Policy and the Common Good in the Trump Era”; and “Is a Contentious but Constructive Politics Possible?”

Kenney will moderate the first talk, scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.

“When I look back, I still remember as an undergrad going to hear visiting scholars and public intellectuals and top-tier reporters come to my university and talk, and it just really enlivens campus discussions and supplements and enhances the learning process and the range of views that are out there,” Kenney said. “President Crow has dedicated a lot of time and effort to that kind of thing across the university. It’s about bringing the world to ASU.”