You are currently browsing the daily archive for December 27, 2021.

Many years ago, Chicago’s PBS station ran a late-night show on Saturdays featuring newspaper columnist Irv Kupcinet, who was its host.

Irv Kupcinet invited a variety of guests on to sit around a table for 90 minutes to discuss current events.

He mentioned ‘the lively art of conversation’ in every show. Despite the controversial topics, his guests managed to engage with him and each other in an intelligent and considered way. Perhaps that was because Kupcinet set the tone with his own conversational style. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall anyone ever walking off the show or being told to calm down.

Nearly 50 years on, things have changed drastically.

We’re at the point where we cannot discuss much, even around the relative safety of the dinner table.

On November 22, 2021, The Times‘s India Knight discussed this unfortunate state of affairs in ‘Our children are losing the ability to argue’. She means making a reasoned, fact-based argument for or against something, e.g. climate change.

I fully appreciated her experience as a youngster, because it paralleled my own (emphases mine):

When I was growing up, the kitchen table was a place of frequent and sometimes shouty political and cultural debate. I would acquire an opinion, usually from something I’d read or watched but sometimes from someone I thought was cool, and then I would express it, often with half an eye to provocation, in the self-important teenage manner. I didn’t have the sort of parents who smile vaguely and say, “That’s nice, dear”, so I would be expected to explain why my opinion was my opinion and to defend it as it was dismantled and sometimes demolished.

My father was excellent at that: ‘If you’re going to take a stance, you’ll have to defend it a lot better than that. Come back with some facts.’

And I could also relate to India Knight’s reaction as an adolescent:

I did occasionally go off to my room in a huff, there to boil with fury at the great injustice of not being given a standing ovation every time I aired a view. But eight times out of ten the conversation was lively and thought-provoking, even enlightening (because I was a child, and children know less than adults, having lived less life). The conversations/arguments were sometimes fiery, but because I was treated as an intellectual equal, I didn’t feel belittled. I found it intriguing and satisfying to learn what the opposing point of view to mine was on any given topic, and why it was held. It taught me that people who hold different opinions from yours can still be clever, likeable and interesting; that they hold their views just as dearly as you hold yours, and that this is fine.

These days, I look back on my late parents’ viewpoints on life and politics. I consider them geniuses, because I now hold those same perspectives.

However, today’s adolescents and twenty-somethings really don’t know how to put forward their side of an argument:

Woke young people are amazing. They do care about important things in a laudable way and are indeed awake to social justice. All that is great. But you really can’t say anything any more. The kitchen table scenario I describe above is now often a fraught and tentative affair, involving many eggshells and much tiptoeing. The anxiety is all on the part of the parents. Even the gentlest, most thoughtful and cotton-woolly discussion can result in young people feeling aggressed and disrespected. The parent’s only permissible answer to, “The sky is green,” is, “Yes, that’s right.” This is never truer than in the context of gender, in which expressing the previously uncontroversial view that biology is real can instantly mark you out as a bigot, a fascist or a phobe.

Sometimes, too, big, insulting, very loaded accusations are chucked carelessly about by the children. As a result, many parents of teenagers I know — and by “many” I mean “nearly all” — feel it’s just not worth the hassle of having these conversations. And, as a result of that, an awful lot of young people don’t know how to argue their case when faced with views that differ from their own. They are able to air an opinion but not to defend it objectively or intellectually at any level.

India Knight says:

Parents must gird their loins and persevere, I think, in tiny, manageable increments. It is vital for children to understand that disagreement is not a personal attack, that holding a topic up to the light is not sinister and that saying, “You’ve just completely contradicted yourself, darling,” isn’t abusive.

I couldn’t agree more, and if more parents, like hers and mine, did that, the world would be a better place.

Unfortunately, a growing number of adults are also unable to accept differing points of view.

Spiked‘s Brendan O’Neill discussed this sad phenomenon on GB News with Patrick Christys on Wednesday, December 22. He said that people are too afraid to say anything that goes against the accepted narrative. He’s right:

That was an apposite interview just before Christmas, when Britons were preparing to host family and friends around the dinner table.

Earlier that day, another GB News host, Michelle Dewberry, explored the horrid nature of the division appearing between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. Tony Blair called the unvaxxed ‘idiots’ and the Archbishop of Canterbury called them ‘immoral’. Blair later walked back his use of ‘idiots’. I’m not sure the Archbishop did likewise.

In any event, Michelle Dewberry discussed this divisive controversy at the beginning of her show (from 8:25 to 11:20):

There are many reasons why people are rightly suspicious of the vaccinations. I’ve had my two shots and the booster but fully understand why others don’t want them. Most of those people can cogently explain their reasons for not doing so.

It is disappointing to see a former Prime Minister and the spiritual head of the Church of England labelling people with whom they disagree in such a parlous way. Were he alive, Irv Kupcinet would have been appalled.

Surely, they should be leading by example.

It is time to return to the lively art of conversation, but that also requires an ability to accept other perspectives, whether we’re teens or grandparents.

We know where the blame lies. We have to try and stop damaging division and emotional arguments in the best way we can. Unfortunately, it is much easier said than done, and I do not have a solution.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post — not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 — resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://churchmousec.wordpress.com/.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,541 other followers

Archive

Calendar of posts

December 2021
S M T W T F S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

http://martinscriblerus.com/

Bloglisting.net - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 1,688,314 hits