Learning to Argue

I am slowly learning a lesson that most good bloggers seem to have absorbed. It’s a lesson my wife has been pushing me to learn after sorting through every PFA post. “You don’t have to write a novel about everything, Bill,…sometimes someone else has already written it.”

In the pilot version of the 435 Voices podcast I mentioned a simple graphic I had created that summarizes how Project to Find America hopes to help Congress begin to be more effective at making policy. Here it is.

The PFA Change Cycle

If you haven’t listened to the pilot podcast yet, I hope you will. I believe it makes a persuasive case for the logic behind this graphic.

However, even as I slog through the process of trying to find media guests for the first set of 435 Voices episodes, it is worthwhile to acknowledge that maybe I don’t have this model right. Maybe it actually looks like this.

A Competing Version

It is pretty easy to see that we’re not going to get politicians to change their polarized and divisive ways without somehow changing the voters who elect them. In other words, the green circle won’t change until one of the other two do. But maybe voters really can be the catalysts for changing this cycle.

I came across the work of Patricia Roberts Miller last spring as I was working on the Prezi deck I used to relaunch Project to Find America. She is a professor of rhetoric and writing at the University of Texas. Stop right there. Already, you are making a judgment about her based mostly on that one sentence. I’m not now judging you, we all do this, but for reasons that you will see when you click through to her post, it is important to understand that we do.

In the post Demagoguery; Or, the Pleasures of Outrage Professor Roberts-Miller articulates precisely the problem that Project to Find America hopes to address and offers a relatively simple (though certainly not easy) solution…we need to learn to argue better and then look for better sources of information that will aid those arguments. Not surprisingly, coming from a professor of writing, it is an extraordinarily well-written and thought provoking piece, I hope you’ll take a few minutes at lunch or this evening to read it.

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