The Lost Art of Debate

I’m quite a few years removed now from both high school and college, but to this day one of the greatest educational experiences of my life was my senior year in high school government class.  Our teacher was Mr. Thomson.  Every year Mr. Thomson would take us to a statewide competition where, for some reason, our school always seemed to place second.  But our perennial second place finish was never due to a lack of effort and commitment on his part to prepare us.  

When it came to politics, the Constitution, and a variety of other civic issues, Mr. Thomson did not simply encourage us to examine and discover our own personal positions on issues, but would also challenge us to publicly present views of issues in opposition to our own.  He would have us prepare in such a way that we often were able to argue and present an issue from multiple perspectives to the point that should we encounter someone who had an opposing view we could often argue their position better than they could.....even if it wasn’t the position we supported.  

It wasn’t until much later in life that I came to the realization of what a great gift Mr. Thomson gave the Nogales High School Senior Class of 1995.....and many senior classes before and after.  He taught us to not just take an emotional position on an issue, but to take the time to understand an issue from every perspective, so as to be able to identify the pros and cons of multiple angles.  

In today’s battle station culture, where immediately upon hearing of an issue we retreat to fortresses of preconceived thought, the ability to slow down and examine a topic has become a lost art. 

George Bush said it therefore its good because I’m a Republican or bad because I’m a Democrat. 

Barack Obama said it therefore it is good because I’m a Democrat or bad because I’m a Republican.

Go on down the list....Reagan, Bush Jr, Hillary, Trump, Bill your team and the decisions are already decided.  We are no longer provided news in which we make our own decisions , rather thanks to our modern Left vs Right outlets we are told WHAT to believe by our team’s purveyors of information......and sadly.......we tend to eat that information right out of their hands.  Education and intellectual thought are under attack in our society where even things as basic as the world being round is now called into question.  Basic biology such as the validity of the anatomical differences between male and female are scrutinized.  If a society can be convinced to question things as universally undeniable as whether the Earth is round or if male and female exist, then that society can be taught to question anything and everything.  And a society that learns to examine issues through emotion rather than reason will begin to derive truth by the emotions topics cause to well up from within them.  

Mr. Thomson did us a great favor in 1995...he taught us to look at situations from perspectives in which we didn’t WANT to see them, having to push past our resistant emotions to examine a position that didn’t “feel” right in order to better understand things.  As a result, occasionally our emotions would change with better understanding and sometimes they didn’t but either way....there was always better for that I say......Thank you Mr. Thomson.   


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