Democracy As Dicussion

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As Americans worry ever more about the effects of media on the quality of public deliberation, they have developed a renewed interest in public discussion, especially face-to-face public discussion. Over a century ago, public forums_organized and widespread_provided a place where citizens could discuss the political issues of the day, and they became a means of adult civic education. William M. Keith documents the college course developed by the new field of Speech to teach the skills of discussion, as well as the forum movement, which culminated in the Federal Forum Project. Using primary sources from archives around the country, Democracy as Discussion traces the early history of the Speech field, the development of discussion as an alternative to debate, and the Deweyan Progressive philosophy of discussion that swept the U.S. For the first time the structure and details of the Federal Forum project in the context of the forum movement and adult civic education in the U.S. are recounted and analyzed, making this book a valuable resource in the study of political communication and history.

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Editorial Reviews

Karen Tracy
A wonderful book, making visible how early scholarship in Speech drew from and contributed to a larger American discussion about democracy's meaning. To understand the tensions among discussion, debate, and argumentation in American life, Democracy as Discussion is essential reading, as it offers a vision for how to reconnect current group communication scholarship with its normative, civic-minded roots.
John Gastil
As Keith says, "Democracy is governance through talk." Keith's work makes clear precisely what kind of talk makes American democracy tick. Long before it became fashionable to speak of "deliberative democracy," Keith discovers how it became fashionable to teach discussion and organize public forums. Anyone who practices or preaches modern deliberation should read Keith's work carefully if they hope to understand the cultural forces that giveth-and taketh away-the aspiration for public discussion. Through Keith's book, the reader gets to join a lively discussion about discussion, featuring a mix of political philosophers, speech educators, proto-social scientists, civic reformers, and philanthropists. In Democracy as Discussion, Keith has accomplished something remarkable-bringing to life a full research library's worth of archives. Keith's book brings the discursive past of democracy into the deliberative present. Thanks to his careful and engaging historical account, we can now stand more squarely on the shoulders of this often forgotten generation of deliberative democrats.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

William M. Keith is associate professor of communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Part 2 Teaching Speech, Teaching Democracy Chapter 3 Origins of Speech Pedagogy Chapter 4 Contest Debating and Civic Pedagogy Chapter 5 John Dewey and the Turn to Discussion Part 6 Teaching Discussion Chapter 7 The First Wave: Discussion Educators Emerge Chapter 8 The Second Wave: Discussion Pedagogy Comes of Age Chapter 9 The Demise of Discussion Part 10 The Forum Movement Chapter 11 The Development of the American Forum Chapter 12 Adult Education and the Civic Mission Chapter 13 The Federal Forum Project Chapter 14 Conclusion

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