Friday, April 3, 2009

The Spirit of Debate

   I had my exit interview with Leslie Donovan yesterday, she asked me some questions about the strengths and weaknesses of the Honors Department that got me thinking.  I feel that the open discussion of ideas between people in different disciplines, with different interests and perspectives on the world is the great strength of the department and what we call our 'interdisciplinary approach'.  I hope that anyone who has taken an honors class knows by now that this does not mean we always have to agree, or that if other people don't agree with our views at the end of class that we have failed.  This type of communication is important and unique because it helps us to put our own views in a larger perspective, and it helps both (or all) parties come away having gained insight into their own views and the views of others.  What helps to foster this spirit of debate helps the program; what keeps people's views insular and narrow hurts the program.  In the spirit of constructive debate, I would like to share a great essay written by Paul Graham entitled "How to Disagree."  It is a great crash course on rules of argument, and how (and why) to attack the argument and not the person making it.  He has many other great essays, which I would recommend if you have time: The Age of the Essay, Hackers and Painters, Copy What You Like, Microsoft is Dead, Holding a Program in One's Head, Keep Your Identity Small, and Cities and Ambition are all good places to start. Feel free to comment with ideas or inspiration from other great debaters.



MRZ said...


One of the good points in The Age of the Essay is to have someone ELSE proofread. The title to the essay will take you to the "How to Disagree" page, but here it is again:

Jynne said...

Here! Here! I think it is so easy to get caught up trying to convince everyone that we forget just to listen. I wonder if this is why da-Schmid is having so much trouble with the faculty and visa versa?