Endless Debates

I seem to keep engaging in what I call “wrap around debates.”  You lock horns with someone who has a different opinion from you and you hash things out. Like the debate Alberta Educators are having (as well as many others) around the issue of how best to teach math.

The problem with wrap around debating is that it never gets anywhere.  In my mind there are two types of people who like to debate:

1.  Those who are only debating to force their own views and agenda.  They will never really listen to what you have to say, they seek only to poke holes in your theory and wait for opportunities to prove yet again why you are wrong and they are right.  They will throw the same lines at you over and over again and just when you think you are getting somewhere, you circle back to the beginning and start again.

2. Those who debate for the purpose of thinking.  They will challenge you.  You will challenge them.  You will both cause each other to think and in the end someone might shift or you will both stick to your own thoughts and agree to disagree.  But the conversation is key because each side has made the other think.

Some people exist inside a vacuum.  They surround themselves with like minded individuals who will agree with whatever they say.  I feel sorry for these people because when they “debate” they might as well be having a conversation with a mirror.

I like it when people challenge me.  It causes me to consider things I might have neglected to think of before, or reveal information to which I was not aware.  Either way these conversations help me to grow as a professional and as a person.

Some people I refuse to talk to anymore though.  They aren’t interested in hearing what I have to say.  They’re only waiting for the chance to prove me wrong.

The problem with talking to these sorts of people is that after awhile you feel like you’re bashing your head against a wall.  In that situation, the only thing you are doing is hurting yourself.

But we must speak up against those who are have it wrong!

No you don’t.  You won’t convince them anyways.  They have a core set of unalterable beliefs and you will come to realize after awhile that really nothing you say is ever going to change them.  That’s when it’s time to move on.  For someone that deeply entrenched in their beliefs they experience a phenomenon known as “cognitive dissonance”.  This means they will dismiss or discount any evidence that is outside of their belief system.  It doesn’t matter what you put in front of them, they will argue it away.

Head…..meet wall.

Where is your time best spent?  It isn’t with these people.  Debate with those for whom the debate will be meaningful.  Everything else is just simply arguing for the sake of arguing.


About Cherra-Lynne Olthof

I've been a middle school teacher for my entire career (which began in 2001). Like my students, I too am a life long learner. My goals include helping my students to achieve their goals, support them in their learning, and to encourage them to think "beyond the grade".
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3 Responses to Endless Debates

  1. The best reason I can think of to hit my head repeatedly against the wall is so that I can really and truly enjoy how good it feels when I stop.

  2. nahashon kimemia says:

    This is really cool. I kind of needed it. Been debating with people on a number of issues and it seems as though I am the only one who comes up with new information. They bombard me with the same info. as if calling a monkey a hyena constantly will turn that monkey into a hyena.

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