How to Discuss Matters of Public Concern

Instructor: Matt Lamb

Matt has tutored for six years now, in a variety of subjects including reading, essay writing, chemistry, and theology. He is finishing his M.A. in Political Science this August.

In this lesson, learn about ways to discuss matters of public concerns. As members of a constitutional republic where government units can range from local school boards to the halls of Congress, understanding how to discuss important political issues is vital to our country.

Where To Find Information On Topics

The political climate can be heated at times. By nature, people break off into political groups because they want to support a certain point of view. How can we learn to discuss matters of public concern, or issues that affect us, the public, in a way that helps promote democracy?

Before discussing matters of public concern, we should strive to have a basic level of knowledge on the topic. It is okay to not be an expert on a topic; in fact, discussing issues will allow you to learn about a topic from the other person!

A good place to learn about issues is by reading newspapers and news websites. Local newspapers will often cover topics such as school funding, construction of infrastructure, and new businesses that might be starting in the town or county.

For example, you might read a story about whether the high school district should borrow money to build a new gym. Or an article discussing a new factory that is considering opening up in the town.

Newspapers are a great place to learn about many current events

For state, federal, and global issues, you'll want news websites. Some might cover a variety of topics, while others might be focused. If you want to find more about what issues Congress is debating, you could read newspapers based in D.C.

To learn about issues such as climate change, pollution, and renewable energy, you might focus on news websites that focus on science and technology. Always try to find unbiased news sources or sources that provide both sides of an argument and quote reputable sources.

How To Discuss Matters Of Public Concern

Once you have some knowledge on the topic, you're ready for discourse. First, establish that it is not personal. Whether you and your friend agree on guns, abortion, taxes, or the environment, you are still friends for other reasons!

Second, figure out what you are debating and what the end goal is. Many political discussions go nowhere because people are arguing from different end goals.

Your friend might be arguing that we need more funding for bike lanes because she wants to see bikers prioritized, while you might be arguing that the city should not spend money on bike lanes before spending more money on schools. One of you is arguing over what is the best way to incentivize biking, while the other is arguing for the best way to spend money; two different conversations!

Third, having established a main question, (what is the best way to relieve traffic congestion, what is the best way to reduce air pollution, what is the best way to ensure access to primary medical care), you can then start to make your points. Let's do an example together!

Immigration is a hot-button topic, but can be broken into many segments. For example, we might say, 'what is the best way to stop people from coming into the country illegally?'. We first have to agree that that is a common goal. If we don't, then we need to start farther back in the discussion with a different question.

If we agree that is, we can start then looking at different options (better visa tracking, building a border wall, cameras and drones), and looking at cost-benefit, effectiveness, and how we would even test it.

Basic Values

At the end of the day, there are basic values we must always practice.

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