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How urgent is our work?

We probably agree with this: Participation in meaningful discourse is a central right and responsibility of those living in a democracy. Without a citizenry skilled and comfortable with dialogue and/or deliberation, a democratic community cannot function as it is intended.

And this: Meaningful discourse is as much at the heart of meaningful relationships as democracy.

And this:
“Crossfire”-type shows, partisan politicians, and issue advocates frequently showcase reactionary and fallacy-ridden argumentation.

But do we think enough about: The alarmingly dangerous impact these speakers have as they claim the space of civil discourse and/or debate while modeling the opposite: it redefines the public’s and the academy’s understanding of these forms of discourse. Civil and authentic discourse is now associated, in significant portions of a lay and academic audience, with Crossfire, Hardball, O’Reilly, etc.

Which implies: With this mis-definition of the concept of meaningful discourse and how to be a participant in such a conversation, the popular audience (i.e. real people) either
1) Becomes adverse to participating in advertised opportunities for authentic discourse because they associate it with the negativity of an inauthentic popular model, and/or
2) Unwittingly sabotages spaces for authentic discourse by modeling what is honestly believed to be proper argumentative behavior, but is in fact disingenuous and fallacy-ridden, and/or
3) Becomes unable to, through authentic discourse, contribute meaningfully as a partner to a relationship OR as a citizen to a democracy.

If these premises are true, we have a real problem – and an urgent responsibility to reclaim in the popular mainstream concepts of dialogue, deliberation, and debate. What do you think?

Kai Degner
Kai is a member of the Harrisonburg, VA city council and previously Harrisonburg mayor. As mayor, Kai brought his passion for public engagement to the forfront of his service and continues to do so as a leader in the Harrisonburg area.

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  1. Jack Paulus says:

    I think you're right on target. Crossfire, Hardball, and O'Reilly are fine examples of how politics frequently places the desire for power and control over the need for knowledge, truth and understanding.

    We have a lot of work to do.

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