Writers need regular exercise in writing, it seems to me, so fairly often during the semester I give them a subject on which they can develop a few paragraphs in class. Sometimes my anecdotes seem a series of “how not to teach” – but, nonetheless, this exercise often gives both my students and me useful insights. This week I asked them to make concrete and real a description of an abstraction – in this case, choosing to write about one of the seven vices or virtues. The real surprise was that, while many developed interesting narrative examples and useful analogies, their assumptions (in the better papers tempered by a sense of complexity) often assumed those traits on the vice side were virtues and vice versa. This was especially true of pride and humility, but also of anger, which they saw as a justifiable response to other’s bad behavior. And so, as I contemplated the problems of this generation, I woke up to Peter Berkowitz’s “The Insanity of Bush Hatred.”It is difficult for Huck Finn to see the wrongs of slavery when surrounded by authority figures (some of whom were generally good people) who accepted that old institution as a given. Only with difficulty can students, who are regularly exposed to thinking of the kind Berkowitz describes, be led to believe that rationality, objective inquiry, acknowledgement of complexity, respect for an intellectual opponent are virtuous, or even possible. And, without civility and reasoned discourse, how can we have the discussions necessary for a democracy to thrive?