Frontiers of the 21st Century: Argumentation, Debate and the Struggle for a Civil Society

Frontiers of the 21st Century: Argumentation, Debate and the Struggle for a Civil Society

Frontiers of the 21st Century: Argumentation, Debate and the Struggle for a Civil Society

Frontiers of the 21st Century: Argumentation, Debate and the Struggle for a Civil Society


Frontiers of the 21st Century brings together papers presented at International Debate Education Association Conferences in Turkey and Estonia. Nineteen papers deal with topics in: Argumentation, Training Young Debaters, Debate and the Public Sphere, Debate as an Educational Method, Dangers of Debate Training, Debate Coaching and Commitments.


The 20th century was certainly an eventful one. Two world wars, the beginning of the nuclear age, the breakup of vast colonial empires followed by the emergence of democratic nations as well as authoritarian regimes, the rise and collapse of fascism and communism, the spread of a global market, the powerful effects of “people power” near the end of the century ending authoritarian regimes in nations such as the Philippines and Chile, the establishment of two global governance institutions (one that failed), the rise of electronic media, the deterioration of the environment, the technological revolution in everyday life, and much more. I have been lucky enough to live through the last half of that eventful century. What a long, strange trip it has been.

We now stand on the frontier of the 21st century. It is a place we have barely entered; we are just inside its borders. No one knows what this century will bring, what events will shape it, or how it will be remembered. Nevertheless, we are obliged to make predictions and engage in conjecture about what our journey will be like. Despite the uncertainties and unknowns, the 21st century will be affected by our actions and efforts, both individually and collectively.

For these and other reasons I find this volume very interesting. It contains papers from some amazing individuals who are, in many ways, likely candidates to have an impact on how the 21st century will turn out. This may sound presumptuous, but I believe it to be true.

A look back at the 20th century can tell us a little about some of the problems we will face. The, problems that began to present themselves in the last half of the previous century will have to be addressed, and new crises will probably occur even more rapidly and unexpectedly. Democratic regimes may well be in the ascendancy, but the struggle to establish lasting democratic systems has only begun. Democracy, if it is seen merely as a form of government, may well fail. To succeed as a system, it requires the meaningful contributions and participation of an informed and reasoning citizenry. Elections centered on colorful posters and vacuous media advertisements and covered by a press that treats them like horse races will result in governments chosen by popular appeal, not by issues and policy proposals. Such contests are not likely to adequately address either the problems that we inherit from the 20th century or the new problems we will confront in the 21st century.

This volume documents some of the voices that can make a difference. As a group, they represent commitment to forging a 21st century citizenry, one that learns, thinks, and speaks with a concerned and critical voice. They are not concerned so much with changing politicians as with changing the citizens who select them through a bottom-up approach that can test the proposition that if the people lead, the leaders will follow.

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