Friday, June 19, 2009

Thank you for arguing

I've long been dismayed with the local fixation on the "rant".  I enjoy Rick Mercer's take on the form but the amateur would-be ranters just don't get what it's all about.  A rant, properly executed, is a carefully structured, erudite, coherent, logical polemic.  It is not a simple spew of whatever is on one's mind.  If you want to see a true master of the form, I can think of none better than Keith Olbermann, an American talking head on MSNBC.  Check here and here for real jewels.

Related to the rant/spew confusion is the argument/fight confusion.  What brought this matter to a head in my mind is the latest Williams meltdown, this time live on VOCM, which many confused for an argument or dispute.  It was not.  It was a drive-by pie-toss at an unsuspecting pedestrian.

But the point of this post is not to dwell on the premier's semi-hysterical rhetorical media muggings but to point out that arguments are good things.  Arguments are how we make progress on issues and explore possible solutions.  Arguments are not disputes; arguments are how we resolve disputes.  Arguments are not fights and they are not personal.  People have the misconception that arguments should be avoided because they lead to conflict but in the hands of the sensible, they are resolutions to conflict.

I just came across this column, by Jay Heinrichs, the author of Thank You For Arguing (a book I highly recommend) which talks about how teaching your kids to argue diffuses conflict and encourages critical thought about even the most mundane things.  This article is sort of late for me because I've already stumbled through the rearing of my own children, making it up as I went along.  But I'm relieved that some of the principles I tried to set for my relationship with them is mirrored in many of the things Heinrichs writes here.

Imagine if more parents had followed the principles outlined here; how different our public sphere would be!

1 comment:

sassy said...

Thanks for your suggestion and link re: "THANK YOU FOR ARGUING".