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Posts Tagged ‘Center for Deliberative Democracy’

Dialogue in Democracy

Written on Monday, December 3rd, 2007 [permanent link]

You know a forum on democracy is cool when they include the cartoonists! A few weeks ago PBS gathered about 50 American leaders to Colonial Williamsburg to debate a 21st Century description of American citizenship. Mixed in with the founder of the online Craigslist and the mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, was Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Mike Ramirez and Kansas comic book publisher Alonzo Washington. I wasn’t there as a cartoonist but as a reporter for the Daily Press, where I have worked to varying degrees since 1992.

The three days put air under my feet and ideas in my head. Democracy matters! And these people practiced it with great care and vigor. Sometimes it got heated as they discussed immigration and health care and service to the larger community, but they also did the one thing that seems to be a vanishing skill in our loud media society: they listened to each other.

We live in an age when opinion is bursting out all over, thanks to cell phones and blogs. We’re yakking and yakking. But democracy happens only when we listen and then decide in a group way which is the favored solution to the problem at hand. Some people aiding this conference are pushing hard to exercise democracy in this new century. This session at Colonial Williamsburg will air on PBS early in 2008, but if you or your civics students want to read about it now check out

Extra credit: check out the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University. Prof. James Fishkin has a new way of political polling that involves online debate and Q-and-A with experts, and he told this CW session that the numbers are clear: the more people learn and study an issue, the more their opinions change! It’s exciting stuff to realize that we the people CAN have the power!

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