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NDSU communication professor presents at international conference


Robert S. Littlefield, NDSU professor of communication, presented at the fourth Tokyo Conference on Argumentation sponsored by the Japan Debate Association held Aug. 10-12 at Sophia University in Kanagawa, Japan.

Littlefield and Michael D. Bartanen, professor of communication at Pacific Lutheran University, co-wrote the manuscript, “The Cultural Influences of Forensics Practice: The Cold War and Its Influence on American Forensics,” which was selected for inclusion in the conference proceedings.

Littlefield and Bartanen argued the onset of the Cold War in the United States had a significant effect on the nature of secondary and post-secondary education, including co-curricular activities such as forensics competition. Their paper discussed significant changes in American forensics resulting from a societal shift toward relying on schools and universities to produce increasing numbers of scientists, government workers and teachers and providing educational opportunities for citizens who formerly did not perceive the value or opportunity for higher education. According to the paper, forensics was transformed by the significant change in the number of people seeking degrees and the public’s perception of the role of higher education. Competitive speech and debate changed from being understood and justified as a public good in the years prior to the Cold War to a private good benefitting the individual student participants. As a public good, the pedagogy emphasized the teaching of style, delivery and argument forms derived from classical theory. Competition was secondary to the goal of training public speakers and articulate citizens. As a private good, the emphasis shifted to the invention of arguments, debate as a method of information processing and new argument forms derived from burgeoning approaches of the social sciences. Public speaking and citizenship training became subordinate to technical learning. The transformation provided a useful case study of the complex relationship between co-curricular activities and the cultural practices and assumptions that influence educational contexts.

David Zarefsky, of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and past president of the National Communication Association; Yoshiro Yano from Chua University, Japan; and J. Anthony Blain from the University of Windsor, Canada, presented keynote speeches.

According to Littlefield, participants from 14 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America attended the conference. Topics ranged from reinventing Japanese national character after the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, to renditions of freedom of expression in Julian Assange’s moral argumentation about WikiLeaks.

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.


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