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Democracy as Discussion: Civic Education and the American Forum Movement
     

Democracy as Discussion: Civic Education and the American Forum Movement

by William M. Keith
 

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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

Overview

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 form archives around the country, Democracy 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 thhat swept the United States. 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 United States are recounted and analyzed, making this book a valuable resource in the study of political communication and history.

About the Author:
William M. Keith is associate professor of communication at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780739115077
Publisher:
Lexington Books
Publication date:
02/12/2007
Series:
Lexington Studies in Political Communication Series
Pages:
376
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.42(h) x 1.33(d)

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Meet the Author

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

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