Louis Brandeis, a former US Supreme Court Justice, stated that “In a democracy, public discussion is a political duty.” But what kind of discussion? What promotes civic capacity?
As the public education reformer John Dewey said “we can have facts without thinking but we cannot have thinking without facts.” How can our discussions be better informed? How can we share perspectives and experiences in positive ways?
Our guides can help inform, and help citizens practice, civic dialogue. You can scroll through these guides on this site or download them as PDFs.
Some of the posts from our early years are set forth below and we will be adding others. You can also review more tips for building dialogue on the Blog for Building Dialogue. We look forward to working with you.
October 4, 2008 at 10:43 pm
How about staged debates? I’m not thinking about the political kind of debate where politicians during an election campaign respond to questions given by a moderator. I’m thinking of the old-fashioned kind of debate where a single question is the subject (“Resolved: That…) and two persons take opposite sides (“Yes”, “No”), and there is statement, rebuttal, etc. in a scheduled way. This might appeal to people because they could get opposing viewpoints in a single presentation. (These could be taped for subsequent viewing, posted on the web for public comments, used for school discussions, etc.) Academics or authors would be best as participants for this, not politicians or clergy, who would have (or be seen to have) a special purpose or perspective that might limit their submissions. A century ago college presidents were public intellectuals and spoke out on important public matters. Why not get them back into the scene?
October 20, 2008 at 3:21 pm
One curious issue here is why “opposing viewpoints”? Perhaps taking these “constructed” stances encourage us to find our common ground – but, in my experience, it seems that people get more entrenched in their stance because it is decided beforehand. Thus, the “debate” format, perhaps, doesn’t encourage us to see our similarities. Difference is fine of course, but, interpersonally, we do difference just fine – we are trained to do such. But, how do we make discussions meaningful as a search for agreement?
October 31, 2008 at 9:42 am
Good point! Truedialectic is right that a lot of our public questions are not bipolar, but benefit from multiple positions. However, a debate could still present several speakers presenting their positions and commenting on the others. People could get exposed to all the nuances, similarities as well as differences. But it would be useful to hear speakers we don’t know. True, we tend to handle interpersonal differences just fine, but that’s only with friends and neighbors. We tend to turn off the persons we don’t know and just seek the views and information that support our views. Being exposed to authoritative speakers we haven’t heard could open our minds.