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Uncommon Ground is a weekly cable television production, sponsored by the Claremont Colleges Debate Union. Programming is shown on Comcast Cablevision, Channel 28, Claremont, California, available in 5,000 homes and the Claremont Colleges community.

The program features moderated roundtable discussions and formal debates on diverse local, national and international public policy issues. Guests include student members of the Claremont Colleges Debate Union, representatives of student organizations of the five undergraduate colleges of the Claremont consortium – Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, Pomona College, and Scripps College – public policy and governmental affairs experts, and representatives of academic institutions, community groups, political associations, and non-profit organizations.


As a tool of public argument, the roundtable discussion involves an open process of inquiry. Participants are able to use common techniques from other public speaking and debate settings, including opening and closing statements, direct and indirect refutation, and cross-questioning. The format is dynamic and interactive – participants must engage in both extemporaneous (that is, limited preparation) and impromptu argumentation and, at the same time, present information in an appealing, organized, and clever manner. Speakers are permitted to politely interrupt and/or heckle other panelists.

The combination of argumentative and performance elements make roundtable discussions particularly interesting for a public audience. In addition, roundtable discussions may offer multiple perspectives on a single public policy issue. This encourages interdisciplinary and compelling critical investigation of an issue. It also avoids the frequent traps of binary thinking and false dichotomies that are more common in formal debating on a specific topic. Programming includes topics on such diverse issues as job outsourcing and insourcing, California political secession, guest worker policies, presidential election reforms, the ‘news’ behind the news, the symbolic political use of the Confederate flag, free trade expansion throughout the Americas, definitional and interpretive issues involving “terrorism,” insurance reform, and privacy protection.