Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Debate 101

The art of persuasion depends mainly on a marshaling of facts, clarity, conviction and the ability to think on one's feet. True eloquence consists of truth and rapid reason.
-John Adams

When I hear another express an opinion which is not mine, I say to myself, he has a right to his opinion as I to mine. Why should I question it? His error does me no injury, and shall I become a Don Quixote, to bring all men by  force of argument to one opinion?
-Thomas Jefferson

He conducted the debate not only with great ingenuity and eloquence, but with equal politeness and candor.
-John Adams concerning Dickinson's closing argument for the opposition-against the Declaration of Independence

via Orian Performance Group
I have been taking a surprisingly fun class this month. Surprisingly fun, because very few people actually think arguing in front of a crowd would be fun.

Mr. Hippie and I have been attending a Critical Thinking, Logic and Debate class on Tuesday nights this month. (I call it debate for short)

It has been rather eye-opening.

I had decided to take this class in order to learn how to express my views more logically and persuasively while still being passionate. I was absolutely scared stiff about having to talk in front of other people.

Critical Thinking, Logic and Debate is a four week (10 hours total) class. The goal of the class is to help the students learn to think on their feet and to present logical and persuasive arguments for or against something. Many people have conviction but lack facts or clarity. Others have facts but no conviction to undergird.

I figured a debate class would help my writing. (and it has...that Annoyed post from last week started out as a rant-and not the tone I wanted, but I think it ended up less annoyed and more logical.)

What I didn't expect was that it would help my marriage.

Life is not a debate, but when you have been married for a while, you tend to fall into certain ruts and bad habits. This class has taught me a lot about us Barefoot Hippies, and how we fight. And how we can fight more productively.

I learned that I tend to think in more deductive lines and Mr. Hippie tends to be more inductive. I connect the dots. If this is true, and that is true, then this must be true also...

Mr. Hippie has about a hundred different reasons why his conclusion is right. I figure he can have his 100 reasons, but that doesn't mean I agree with his conclusion.

This has been very insightful. And good. A meeting of the minds you might say.

Debating teaches you to really listen to the other person's arguments and view points. You have to understand where they are coming from in order to refute their arguments or even agree with them. You are require to listen for the 5 minutes or 7 minutes or 8 minutes-whatever length of time the person is allotted. You can't interrupt. It is a really good practice.

There is also the whole element of fighting fair. Not hauling out the nastiness. Or really even the emotion. It is agreeing to what things mean, and eliminating speculation, assigning of motives and nuances.

Did I mention that we are on opposing teams? Yeah. So far my team has won 2 of the 3 debates...

Happy wife, happy life...

Debate class...via Orian Performance Group

I love how life ties together. About the time we started this class, I also started reading John Adams with the kids. John Adams was a debater. He was the most vocal person in the Second Continental Congress. He loved to talk and he was good at presenting his points. He was eloquent and not succinct.

Through the reading of John Adams, I have been able to pass on to my kids some of the parliamentary debate lingo...opposition and government. Leader of the opposition and Prime Minister. Madame Adjudicator. Peanut Gallery.

Now they are beginning to pick up these subtle references in John Adams. They are hearing how debate worked in real life.

We may even listen to the recent creation debate just for the experience of seeing all the elements play out. I'm learning and I passing that knowledge on to my kids. Win-win.

Well, tonight I get to be the Prime Minister, the leader of the government team. We will put forth a resolution. We will cement our definitions and we will argue our points.

And, can I just say, that I am hoping we leave the score 3 to 1?

*Just wanted to mention that OPG is a physical company with actual in person classes. But they also have a very helpful blog, plus a business tip of the week YouTube series, and online notes. Check them out. (here)