“Why is our cousin attending an argument class, mom?”
“Yes. She said she goes for one every week . Has she learnt to argue better now ?”
“Oh! You mean the debate class ?”
“Yes. The same .”
The next two minutes are very critical for me. I have to keep the kid engaged in the same thought because they tend to get into the next train of thoughts easily and at the same time I have to frame my thoughts on how to take this discussion forward. I just about manage to do that and start a conversation.
“It’s called a debate. It is a very important tool. ”
“Because it is always important to know the other side of the coin. ”
“For example, when you say A is right, and the other person says B is right , you should be able to
1. Point out clearly why you think A is right.
2. Listen to why the other person says B is right.
3. Finally decide if you still think A is right. ”
” Ok. So after the argument, i mean, debate, if I feel that B is right, can I switch over? ”
” Well, if you are taking part in a debate competition, then you cannot. You have to stick to your choice. But in real life, yes, of course you can. ”
“Oh , Ok. Then I will not take part in a debate competition. If I think B is right, then I want to go with B. ”
I smile and then we start a debate on the most debated topic in our home ” Should we have a pet at home or not. ” Phew!
I was particularly impressed by the way he said he would like to switch to B if he felt that B was a better choice. How many of us, adults can actually do that? How many of us can say that though I started with A , I switched to B because I heard the points in favor of B and realized my choice was not right.
In the case of adults:
We don’t even want to listen to the points in favor of B.
Even if we are convinced, we will not switch over to B.
A and B cease to appear as two equally choosable options. Once we choose A, we make it so much a part of us that we don’t want to let it go. The only reason for this being:
Our inability to separate ourselves from our likes and dislikes, our interests and our beliefs. We make it a part of our skin and live with it.
There are a lot of people in our history who have shifted from one ideology to another. Earlier, I would look down upon them. But now I understand that it needs a lot of courage to do that. To publicly accept that one did not make a right choice and then rectify it, is not easy. I am not talking about people who switch parties for the greed of power or money.
Getting back to where all these thoughts started ( the debate class) I really appreciate the way kids are taught how to consolidate all their thoughts with regard to a certain topic. They are also encouraged to think about the points that the opposition team may come up with so that they can be prepared for a rebuttal.
My two cents regarding debates being conducted would be: Every debate (class or otherwise) should end with the participants from team A talking about points from team B that they appreciated the most. And vice versa. By doing so:
We teach the kids the humility and courage to publicly acknowledge and appreciate good even in an opponent.
They get a peek into the other side of the coin.
Most importantly, they learn to disassociate themselves from their argument points.