It seems as if people today avoid talking about important issues that face the nation. Much of this has to do with the inability of people to discuss important economic, political and social issues in a clam manner. However, without educated discussion about problems in society, democracy operates in a diminished capacity. There are, however, important ways in which citizens can be encouraged to discuss issues and do so in a civil manner. The most important way is through public debates.
Debating the issues on private sector television and radio stations
This can be a difficult road to stimulating a discussion among citizens. With private sector television and radio stations, the debate is often slanted towards the viewers. Private sector television and radio stations are in business to make a profit and will only be successful when they make their viewers happy. Unfortunately, this means telling people what they want to hear, and this is counter-productive in attempting to have a robust debate about important issues. However, if the debate is being held by a neutral party and television is there simply to cover the debate, citizens can become more informed about the issues.
Debating the issues on public television and radio
Because public television is operating without the motive for profit, there is a better chance that unbiased, public debate can take place. This outcome is not always achieved, but the probability is much higher. There are seldom any economic interests that influence the way the debate is organized and managed. When a good debate between two or more people about one or more issues is conducted, this will stimulate viewers and listeners to think about the issues themselves, and by seeing the issues debated in a civil manner, this influences citizens to be able to do the same in private.
Manifestations of public debate
Although most of the debate seen and heard by citizens is done during election time, there are other ways that important issues are debated in a civil manner. There are many debating societies in schools around the country that have debates that can be attended by the general public. There are also non-profit organizations that regularly finance debates that can be seen or heard by the public. This type of public debate, although not as entertaining as much of the hyperbole seen on television, is nonetheless a part of the foundation of any democracy.
One example of a non-profit organization that operates a series of debates is Intelligence Squared. This organization has debates broadcast on public radio. It is supported by the philanthropist Robert Rosenkranz. You can find more information on the organization and Robert Rosenkranz.