Monday, March 13, 2006

Argue with me!

I think one of the best things about American society is the ideal (note I say ideal) that you can argue with people, have completely different points of view, and yet still be on a cordial basis. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is emphasized enough in schools. Even in my graduate classes, I find many who tend to back away from a lively spirited debate. Are they afraid of upsetting people? Of being personally attacked?

Unfortunately, it seems that we're not teaching students to debate or really discuss issues in a civil manner. I once worked in a office that was solidly working class, where any disagreement with the boss was viewed as a challenge to her authority. It was not uncommon for workers to be fired for expressing points of view different from the points (you weren't considered a "team player"). And as this gets perpetuated, well, no wonder there's such a divide between blue states and red states. As frustrating as it is for either side, we need to recognize that the other side has a valid point of view before we can even get them to consider our points of view. Even if there is a culture against dissent (being ever so helpfully fostered by the Bush administration).

In any case, I think it’s dangerous not to disagree.

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