Thursday, October 27, 2011

Public Debate - Foundational Pillar of Democracy

Public debate is a constructive discussion on a matter of mutual importance. Citizens express their views on a problem and try to reach a consensus acceptable to most, if not all participants. Positives and negatives of possible solutions are discussed and efforts are made to pick up one which is deemed the best.

Constructive public debate is the foundation pillar of democracy. It churns the public opinion to produce a consensus about an issue confronting the society or nation at large. Democratic societies are expected to dig out solutions through public debate. This is something where a democratically cultured society differs from an autocratic society.

Some people confuse debate with argument. However, a public debate is just a constructive discussion on a subject of mutual importance. People express their individual views about a problem; discuss the pros and cons of possible solutions, and try to reach a conclusion which is collectively acceptable. It is not about a group with particular thoughts thrusting themselves on the others. It is a concerted effort to find a path where all associated can tread together.

A society debates an issue at several levels. People could gather in a public meeting in large numbers and listen to the speakers' address on an issue. A smaller group could assemble to discuss things in a room or hall. A bunch of citizens could spontaneously begin discussing a subject at the local grocery shop or store. A citizen might watch a social debate program on television and find a particular participant's views impressive. All these activities collectively make a public debate.

Communication on political and social issues has been a component of human interaction since the dawn of civilization. Ceremonial and religious expression, informal discussions and forums to discuss daily life are various forms of public debate. To disagree with each other on political and social matters is inherent and debates help take a middle path. The objective of public debate is to find a mutually agreeable solution to a problem or suggestion to improve quality of life.

With the advent of Internet technology, new platforms for public debates have emerged. People can now express themselves on online platforms. They can propagate their thoughts on the social media, blogs and debate forums. Some institutions of higher learning have introduced their forum platforms to enable people to voice themselves and discuss issues with some of the best minds in the field. One can join the people with high learning to ascertain solutions of issues that plague our society.

The biggest advantage of online debate platforms is that the people can express themselves without feeling any kind of pressure. It is their message which people view, not them. So they can post what they exactly feel. This is where the Internet scores over the conventional platforms of debate. People who are hesitant to speak publicly get a powerful medium to express themselves and positively contribute in opinion formation.

Debates help people to gain as an individual as well. Debating helps a person cultivate analytical skills and proper understanding of the subjects of social importance. They also develop the skills to sum up their thoughts and put them in convincing manner. Most debaters have the habit of reading which is like food to their intellect. Regular participation on social and political debate platforms helps one to develop as a citizen contributing immensely for the betterment of society and nation.

The author of this article recommends, an online debating community created by the University of Leicester, a leading university in UK, providing people a platform to debate on various issues of public concern.

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