Tag Archives: combat

A Broken System Part III: Fighting Words

By Guest Contributor CVT, originally published at Choptensils

I’ve talked about the obvious need for a big change (Part I) and given a (slightly) smaller-scale suggestion for changing the USA’s relationship to race (Part II).  Now, in Part III, I’ll cover what I believe to be the education system’s single biggest contribution to the injustice of our society: the creation of a culture of combative communication (i.e. turning everything into a “fight”).

So, among my many annoying habits, I have one which a certain ex of mine absolutely hated.  It goes like this: I like to talk like I know what I’m talking about.

A prime example?  This blog.  I write with conviction and little hesitation.  I seldom use words that convey doubt in the veracity of my own experiences and opinions.  I sit down at my keypad and “tell it like it is.”  I state my argument, then break it all down, piece by piece, to bolster the strength of my claims and words.  That’s how I do it.

And that’s how I wrote the last paragraph.  That’s precisely how most politically-angled blog-posts are written.  It’s how articles and essays are written.  How speeches are given and delivered.

In the U.S., it’s called “good writing.”

We’re taught to do this.  To be like this.  The U.S. educations system takes pride in emphasizing “critical thought.”  And, on the surface, that’s something that is truly laudable. (*1)

However, the problem is in the delivery – and the message that is hidden within that delivery.  When we are taught to write and speak publicly, we are taught to compete.  We are taught effective techniques to “win” our “argument.”  We are taught that hedging and displaying doubt is not an “effective” means of convincing somebody of our right-ness.  If we do acknowledge a weakness, it is only to downplay it or offer up how that can be “easily rectified.”

On the flip – when we “listen” to the other side express their own “arguments” and opinions, we are taught to look for holes.  Find their weaknesses and expose them.  Find their stronger arguments and figure out how to break them down and “defend” against them.  All effective tools when trying to “win” an argument or get a good grade on a paper.

But – outside of the classroom – we think the same rules apply.  To successfully solve a problem, we think one must “win” the “argument” to get people to go along with them.  Our government is structured around constant “debates” where differing sides try to “win” people over to their side, so they can get the majority necessary to put their plans into action.

But solving problems is not a fight. When we employ competitive, fighting tactics towards “solving problems,” we end up defeating ourselves and no true solution can be reached. We just get half-assed measures that barely touch on a symptom or two, ignoring underlying causes.
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