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Moving from Debate to Dialogue with a Justice Talking Radio Broadcast

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Key Terms & Core Knowledge

Kairos. Kairos can be defined as the right or opportune time and place to do something.  It is sometimes associated with notions of decorum. The introductory segments reveal kairos by identifying the issue’s history or background as well as its current significance. Teachers using the format can introduce the concept and require students to invent and establish a strong sense of kairos within their overview and current event segments as well as within their own arguments.

Stasis Theory. Stasis theory offers a process of questioning that helps students to identify what is at issue, where stakeholders stand, and how they might stand together in their disagreement. For example, if a pro-choice advocate is arguing about the value of a woman’s right to self-determination and a pro-life advocate is arguing about the definition of human life, the two parties are not in stasis.  They do not even agree what the issue is, and therefore cannot have a productive argument on it. Systematic questions of conjecture, definition, quality, and action can facilitate stasis. The show’s moderator and the debaters themselves strive to bring the controversy into stasis so that the audience can more precisely recognize what is at issue. Participating students can be expected to discover and disclose their arguments ahead of time in an effort to begin with stasis before performing the debate. Top

Ethos. Ethos is the term we use to describe a person’s character and credibility, both fundamental to the art and science of persuasive argument. A sense of historical context and an agreement on how the issue will be framed interconnect with the character of those involved in the controversy. An audience is more inclined to trust a character who is well-informed, demonstrates good will toward others, and refrains from fallacious arguments. The Justice Talking format presents a number of voices in character and does not immediately filter those characters through a single writer’s voice and perspective, allowing audience members to sense where each character’s interests lie. Students are expected to invent their own ethos rather than pretend to be objective non-characters and to locate disinterested experts with an established or situated ethos on the issue. The concept also provides an opportunity for students to weigh the quality of various sources and to recognize that some sources are more credible than others. Top

Pathos.  Pathos is a term we use to refer to the emotions and values of the audience and the efforts of a rhetor to evoke those emotions and acknowledge those values. The voices of real people in real places can evoke much greater emotion than research sources cited in parentheses only. Emotion and commitment are closely aligned with our sense of character and motivation. Pathos engenders a compassionate ability to empathize with an audience and to understand the nature of emotions and why people experience them. Appeals to pathos are based on the assumption that emotions are communal and that human beings share similar kinds of emotional experience. Because emotions are sometimes perceived as irrational, it is valuable for students to understand the role they play in the reasoning process and in moving people to action.  Emotion also increases engagement.  Adopting only an objective distance from the issue potentially blinds students to the role that proximity and interest play in the deliberative process. An appreciation for pathos encourages students to observe and reflect on the relative proximity and interest of their own positions and those of their sources. Justice Talking episodes frequently interview individuals who have experienced directly the consequences of an issue or policy.  Participating students are likewise expected to query people who are directly affected by the issue and to share their stories. Top

Logos.  Logos is the term we most commonly associate with argument and refers to the orderly presentation of claims, reasons, and evidence, as well as counter claims, reasons, and evidence. Argument would obviously suffer without adequate attention to logos, though argument need not be equated exclusively with logos. The debate portion of the show emphasizes logical argument as does the opening overview of the debate. Advocates have the opportunity to question each other, and the moderator may ask questions to tease out ideological commonplaces that inform the debaters’ positions. Participating students are expected to affirm and refute and to offer clear reasons and compelling evidence for their claims and counter claims.