Friday, March 4, 2016

Puerilia Argumenta

An Argument with a Child

"Sam, I've asked you three times. Please pick up the Legos."
"But Helena got out the crayons and you didn't ask her to pick them up!"
"Sam, I'm talking to you right now, not to your sister. Please pick up your Legos."
"Ugh! This is so stupid!"
"Sam, that word is not okay."
"But everyone at school says stupid!"

I could continue transcribing this conversation, but the argument strategy employed by my 7 year old son doesn't change. Even though I stress to my children constantly that we are each responsible for our own behaviors, their default is to deflect their own responsibility by pointing out the irresponsibility of others. This isn't unusual behavior, and it isn't limited to my own children. A similar conversation happens in my classroom and goes something like this...

An Argument with a Child, Part 2

"Seriously, Stephanie. Please stop talking when I'm talking. It's very disrespectful and disruptive."
"But Julie and Mark are talking."
"Stephanie, right now I'm speaking with you and asking you to stop talking when I'm talking."
"Well, you should talk to them, first."

Why is this an acceptable response from a teenager? When do people outgrow this "but what about those other people" mentality? At what point do we stop evading our own responsibility? At what point do we own our own behavior?

Apparently, the answer in today's culture is that we don't. We don't take responsibility for our own behavior and we don't force the leaders we support to take responsibility for their behaviors. Instead, we childishly focus on the other side. We've lost the ability to have a logical, civilized, mature argument. I submit, as evidence, the following two Facebook conversations.

A Childish Argument, Exhibit A: 

A friend on Facebook posted this article and took a stand, stating that Trump did not represent Christ's views, and that Christians should speak out. 

One person commented:

I'm not backing Trump. But I am not also going to pretend that he is the only vicious one out there. To have ANY dialogue there needs to be truth from both sides. If one side is still going to have their blinders on to what they are responsible for, well, this country has no hope.


"Obama had black panthers support him which he never denounced."

Why can't this person be brave and say that Trump is a disingenuous and dangerous man? When she says "but what about the other side," she is, in essence, saying, "but everybody's doing it."

That's not an appropriate response. The appropriate response is simply, 'YES. Trump is a terrible human being and not worthy of my vote." The other side has no bearing on the inherent evilness of Trump. Don't make excuses for this man. Don't dumb down your own convictions because of "the other side."

A Childish Argument, Exhibit B: 

Another friend posted this tweet, related to the Flint Water Crisis.

One person commented

But if I say the same about Barack and the VA or Benghazi its racist?


How many died at the VA? I didn't rule out neglect or indifference in the Snyder Flint situation, do you on Obama and the VA?

Aside from their obvious lack of understanding on appropriate apostrophe and comma usage, this person also lacks logic. He tried to deflect criticism of Rick Snyder and his cronies by bringing up the President and the VA. But this isn't a path of logic; in fact, it's a logical fallacy. Attacking the integrity of the speaker and bringing up a completely unrelated topic are simply attempts at changing the subject and belittling the speaker. 

It is imperative that we point out these logical fallacies instead of engaging in discussion with them. If we engage, we fall into the "yes, but" trap and end up on the defensive. And that is the goal of the arguer: to put us on the defensive, thereby diminishing his own responsibility for his own actions--and deflecting criticism away from his beliefs, his political candidates, and his cronies.

It's time we stop arguing and say, full stop:

Please pick up your Legos.

Please don't talk when I'm talking.

Donald Trump is unethical, immoral, egotistical, racist, and rude.

The Flint Water Crisis occurred because white people with money and power valued economics over human lives.

I will not engage in a childish argument. 

1 comment:

  1. Sharon, once again, we think alike. I normally try to spread the logical fallacy wealth around political parties when I teach debate, but this year if I were teaching debate I think I would build my entire unit about Donald Trump, because the fallacies are so outrageous and emotional, no student could ever forget them. And your "Thou shalt not..." image - it's on my debate page. :) As always, nicely done.


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