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UK: Moving forward with Free Speech Debate

Free Speech Debate, a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme at St Anthony’s Collage of the University of Oxford, held a workshop on Wednesday on how to further the development of the project as an online educational resource.

Free Speech Debate is a project run by Professor Timothy Garton Ash looking at freedom of expression in an increasingly interconnected world. The project is based around ten draft principles of free speech that have been vigorously discussed. Thus principle seven ‘We respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief’ has been agreed with both Oxford University’s theologians and Richard Dawkins.

The International Debate Education Association has been working with Free Speech Debate for two years. The main focus of our partnership is through idebate.org. We have created a microsite, freespeechdebate.idebate.org, which explores Free Speech through the Debatabase debates.

On idebate.org we take Free Speech Debate’s case studies on various free speech issues from around the world and use them as a starting point for a debate. The intention is that the Debatabase debates allow the exploration of the issues raised in more depth. There are now fifty Debatabase debates on the Free Speech Debate microsite.

The workshop was based around ways forward from simply expanding the Free Speech Debate website to creating courses, both off and online, built around the issues raised by and content of the site. One of the most interesting was the possibility of giving users the ability to create their own private workgroups on the Free Speech Debate site. They would have their own reading lists and comments from the group within a private setting. Representatives from Spires Academy in particular thought this might enable discussion in schools.

While there are several possible ways forward there is however a clear aim for the future of the project as expressed by Timothy that is “to turn the site into a state of the art online educational resource.”

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