LMU BELLARMINE COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS | The first seven months of 2020 have presented the United States with deep and consequential tribulations: A viral pandemic killed more Americans than all the wars since 1945; and the systemic scourge of American racism reached an undeniable and unbearable pitch.
Aggravating these physical and moral plagues was an ingrained national trait: We have a hard time talking civilly to each other. It’s not a new phenomenon; a cursory look at American history uncovers much anger and incivility as far back as the American Revolution, when those seeking a new form of government had to contend with neighbors who liked King George III just fine.
The latest effort to bridge that divide, Project Citizen, a course at Loyola Marymount University and now a series of podcasts, is the work of Carol Costello, an award-winning broadcast journalist and a journalism lecturer in LMU’s English Department. The aim of Project Citizen, in the LMU Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, reflects Costello’s deeply held conviction that constructive, candid conversation can lead to better interactions and to solutions to seemingly intractable public problems.
“Nothing is more important than finally listening to one another,” Costello said. “That will make our country better through this terrible time, right now.”
The course itself was focused on deeper conversation and collaboration between students at LMU and Kent State University, Costello’s alma mater. The reciprocal course, held three weeks each at the LMU and Kent State campuses, brought together students with dissimilar experiences to improve discourse. “The difference in cultures is vast,” Costello said.
“I asked each group of students to write what they thought of the others; the California students came up with a list stereotypes about Midwesterners, and the Ohio students came up with a list stereotypes about West Coast people. But as they spent time with each other and in their states, they found the stereotypes didn’t hold and that people are complicated. It was life changing for the kids.”
The success of the course became the impetus for the podcast series. Costello said the series will explore the generational divide by fostering dialogues. Eight episodes have been recorded that reflect the wide-ranging ambition of the project. (LMU This Week will link to the podcasts when they become available.)
The first episode looks at how Gen-Z is busy re-educating their parents on racial issues; an LMU sophomore initiates a conversation with her Chinese American, Boomer dad and things get … uncomfortable. Episode two explores the role that student-athletes have in social justice with LMU basketball star Eli Scott and his Coach, Stan Johnson. Subsequent episodes examine the inclusivity of the Black Lives Matters movement; what Gen-X really looks like; when is an F-bomb really an appropriate expression; is hate more than a four-letter word; and will the COVID-19 crisis re-ignite what’s good about America; among other topics.
Pulling together a podcast is not a simple matter, yet it is a labor of love. The project is led by Costello, but it is student driven: LMU students came up with topics, designed the website and graphics, researched and produced the episodes. The journalistic depth comes from the students connected to the campus newspaper, the L.A. Loyolan, and from student contributors from various disciplines. Costello turned to her spouse, LMU President Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D., for the musical contributions.
“We need to keep talking to figure out ways to repair our country,” Costello said. “We need to listen and talk to one another. Nothing is more important. This project is my way of helping to repair the damage.”