Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Feature: Changing Minds

Academia de Dezbateri (The Debate Academy) put The Economist, The European Voice, and Foreign Policy editorials under intense scrutiny, testing what difference public debate can create in the attitudes of an audience.

80 students took part in two online debate rounds and over 5000 visitors took part on the website. After an online debating selection round, the remaining students learned how to depict errors in international journals editorials, one of the primary sources of public information.

In two public debates held in Bucharest, students paired with civil society representatives to argue on two motions :

* New media empowers the citizens of a democracy

* It is justified to invoke tradition in conflicts involving the violation/infringement of civil rights.

“I learnt how to recognize context, premises, the main arguments and, more than anything, to see the sophisms, to de-construct and to reply to them.” said student Maria Tereza Antica. “Now I pay more attention to the articles’ sources and structures and feel more comfortable knowing how to read them.”

Using a voting system similar to that of Parliament, the audience was asked to vote for/against the motion prior and post-debate, to see what difference the exercise had made. Under the slogan “in arguments we trust”, see what a true public exchange of ideas can do: here and here.

“This is just the beginning” says Raluca Bogdan, from ARDOR. “From October 2010 to June 2011, ARDOR will multiply this pilot program fourfold. Students from Timisoara, Iasi, Cluj and Bucharest will debate online, be trained in critical reading procedures and provoke public debates.”

Check out the next Big Idea for more about the craze for online debate - not just in Romania but all over the world.

“The Debate Academy” (www.academiadedezbateri.ro), in partnership with Policy Center for Roma and Minorities, was financed by the European Commission through Youth in Action.

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