In the tradition of the groundbreaking PBS series Ethics in America, PBS has launched a new series called “Public Matters with C.R. Douglas” which incorporates the sophisticated but entertaining Socratic method to tackle subjects such as gay marriage, legalizing marijuana and corporate influence over government. In each episode, Douglas convenes a panel of public officials, policy makers, academics, journalists and other leaders, and challenges them with provocative but fair questions about the topic at hand.
Throughout the program, C.R. Douglas and his guests frequently refer to “Cascadia.” No, they’re not talking about Cascadia, Oregon. Nor are they referring to the community college in Bothell. Cascadia is the name for the hypothetical state where their situations are set.
Unlike traditional lines of questioning that often result in perfunctory answers, the Socratic method uses the hypothetical reality of Cascadia, to create unusual situations and rhetorical inquiry to elicit well-reasoned responses. The interviewee is challenged to think about an issue from a different point of view than his or her own. Rather than just being asked to state a position, guests must explain and defend it too.
In reality, Cascadia refers to the entire region of North America encompassing the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. By setting our hypothetical questions in a fictional state, we allow guests to broaden the discussion and analysis beyond the confines of reality, and both pose and answer the larger questions of, “What if…?
The first episode of “Public Matters” examines the controversy surrounding gay marriage. Washington has just become the seventh state in the nation to approve same-sex marriage. But opponents promise to mount an effort to repeal the law in a referendum vote in November. Both sides are digging in for what appears to be a protracted fight over this contentious issue that strikes at the core of our state’s values, and raises intriguing questions of morality, equality, politics and faith.”