Artful discussion: John Dewey's classroom as a model of deliberative association

Political Theory 33 (5):654 - 677 (2005)
This essay uses John Dewey's understanding of classroom discussion to construct a model of democratic deliberation that stresses the importance of the formal aesthetics of dialog. It claims that qualities such as the rhythm and direction of face-to-face political talk affects interlocutors' effectiveness in persuading others and stimulating interest. Because participants primarily focus on responding to the substance of individual utterances, the model employs Dewey's understanding of the teacher as a moderator who regulates the spatial and temporal quality of the entire deliberation. Although some might claim the presence of such an authority figure endangers the deliberators' autonomy, Dewey stresses that good teachers assist students in constructing their own solutions to their own problems, and therefore a moderator could actively intervene and respect the normative principles of deliberative democracy. Finally, the essay discusses the distinctive role implied by such an association in a larger theory of deliberative politics
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