By John Woolley
The room is long and dark. Chairs line the length of the walls on two sides. In the center of the room rests a professional-looking table with black executive-style chairs. Standing off to the side, you get a quiet feeling of intimidation and awe. Eight of the chairs in the room are occupied by individuals excitedly discussing the political topics of the day. They cover Cuba/U.S. relations, Disney work visas, liberty vs. security, and many other topics. The discussions are moving so quickly that one might expect to receive mental whiplash. But the man at the head of the table, Dr. Carl Colavito, is moderating the discussion to prevent just such an event from happening, and you realize that if you pay attention, the discussions are not difficult to follow. The other occupants of the room, the ones debating and discussing so feverishly, are fellow Florida State College at Jacksonville students. Welcome to PaRDi, the club for Politics and Rational Discourse.
Colavito is a Professor of Political Science at FSCJ. He teaches Moral and Political Philosophy, American Government and State and Local Government classes on Kent Campus.
“What we do is, we look to find challenging topics and current themes in society, and we talk about them in a rational Socratic method, which uses basically analytical skills and highly critical skills to analyze and interpret what is going on without having bias,” says Kenneth Ellis, the vice president of the PaRDi club. Ellis wears a blue FSCJ T-shirt and dark jeans, with black-rimmed glasses and a trilby hat. He seems very friendly and open. He says they are open to discuss anything–from the causes of war to finding ways out of it. They have even discussed the ethics behind robotics, as well as the causes and behaviors in society behind the idea of having a robotic industry. “We talk deeply about anything. We are always open for unique and diverse opinions.”
The PaRDi club hosts an event called Kent Talks, which serves as a dialogue for students, by students. It is, essentially, a panel discussion. Last year’s topics included panels on Privacy, The Constitutionality of Secession, and The Selfie-Generation, and other issues that affect every student’s life. They have had a total of eight topics so far.
The PaRDi club has a diverse roster of students, who have an interest in the club for differing reasons. John Morgan, who was introduced by Ellis as a ‘Moral Humanitarian,’ says that he enjoys the club because, “It’s like a thought problem for me. It’s like a scratching post. It’s a way to get a clarity of mind that I can’t get anywhere else because the dialogues at work are stressful enough in ways.”
Kyle Hodge, an FSCJ alumni and current UF graduate student who still attends meetings at Kent Campus described the club in his own words. “The idea is not so much to discuss particular issues be they of a certain topic or a certain nature, but to discuss them in a certain way, which is to address them thoughtfully–not necessarily without bias but with thoughtful consideration of your own bias in advance,” he says. “So when you’re talking about rational discourse, you’re not talking about things like partisan politics or identity politics. We’re talking now about things where we’re willing to consider all sides of the issue. Basically, it would be any person’s conception of ideal political dialogue. It’s what we aim for in our PaRDi group,” says Hodge.
PaRDi takes place on Fridays, and is located in Building G, room 126 at Kent Campus. For more information, contact Dr. Colavito at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by Shawn Kelly