This paper focuses on the primary problem of the public, as advanced in The Public and its Problems, which Dewey described as the need to improve “methods of debate, discussion, and persuasion” for the purposes of “perfecting the process of inquiry” (Dewey, 1927/1954, p. 208). I first situate these modes of communication as a central problem within Dewey’s conceptualization of democracy. I then argue that controversial issue discussion and milieus matter for the extent to which the public’s problem can be resolved. Finally, I address the ways in which China struggles with reflective inquiry relative to controversial issue instruction and revisit the universal imperative of unencumbered inquiry into all beliefs and forms of knowledge.

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