In April, CCLP fellow Irshad Manji convened a workshop at the USC Annenberg School that discussed moral courage, community engagement, and different communication styles. The workshop, attended by about 20 USC students, was structured as an interactive and collaborative follow-up to the event last November sponsored by Visions and Voices and organized by CCLP and the USC Annenberg Office of the Dean: “Forbidden Questions about Islam: Turning Polarization into Constructive Conversation”.
While the event in November explored Islam and questions of “honest diversity” (a term coined by Manji herself), the April workshop helped students work through difficult past experience using Manji’s process of “role modeling”. The role modeling exercise of acting out a dialogue with the goal of exhibiting moral courage was intended to make the students uncomfortable, explained Manji, and to encourage mutual respect for other feelings and opinions.
Manji, the founder of the Moral Courage Project, sees herself on a lifelong mission to aid people in facing their fears, including the fear of being stigmatized for speaking out about taboos. When she founded the Moral Courage Project at New York University, Manji taught a course focused on teaching students to articulate how they want to serve society and to identify core values that can be turned into effective action. With the support of the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, Manji is hoping to launch a similar program at USC, in the form of a 2-credit seminar. Manji and Levan Institute Director Lyn Boyd-Judson are working together on a possible course, on ethics and leadership with a moral courage component, for the fall of 2018.
In their workshop room in Annenberg, students examined case studies of moral courage, such as the story of Genesis, a Mississippian who spoke to Confederate sympathizers about how the Mississippi state flag is a painful reminder of her ancestors’ enslavement. According to students at the workshop, Manji was provocative and thoughtful in her discussion of tolerance, saying that millennials have a tendency to demand tolerance while shying away from asking challenging questions. The themes that Manji presented at the workshop continue to be pertinent and captivating in today’s political and social climate.
By: Sarah Collins, Geoffrey Cowan Scholar