Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Debating and Discussing

For the last while, the posts on this blog have been almost entirely about unschooling.  My political views on other things seem to have taken a back seat.  And I wondered: why is that?  Unschooling is the subject I'm the most passionate about, so it seems logical I write a lot about it, but there's more to it than that...  When I think of writing something to do with my green anarchist views, I shy away from it, mentally.  It kind of scares me to talk about it.  Each time I open my mouth to state my views, or start to type a highly politicized post, I feel a rush of nerves.  Why is that?  I think it just comes down to the fact that I hate arguing.  Like, really hate it.  And if I am going to be dragged into an argument (some call it a "debate".  Yes, yes, I know they're different.  I just don't like either!), I want it to be a subject I have absolute confidence in my knowledge of.

Unschooling, for example.  I still hate debating that subject, but it's the one subject I hate debating (very) slightly less than other subjects...

And, of course, I can *safely* post about unschooling on this blog with very little risk of arguments or debates.  I know that what I'm most likely to get are just a few differences in opinions, honest questions, and interesting discussions...  Good things

When things get into political views, and general worldviews, however, nowhere is "safe" anymore.

Many people find it strange that I hate debating.  They say, often with a certain measure of disapproval, that debating is good for you, good for solidifying views, and is cowardly to avoid (well, no one has actually ever said the last one to me, I've just gotten that feeling...).  Our culture seems to put a lot of emphasis on debating, and I actually find myself feeling slightly embarrassed when saying I hate debating, and usually avoid it.  But really, just like anything else, people don't learn or develop in only *one* way.  For some people, debating is very helpful in their learning process.  For others, it's not.  I just wish people would recognize that!

When I let myself get sucked into a debate (an argument to determine which arguer is "right", as if right-ness was somehow objective), I feel a spike in stress levels.  Not a pleasant mental jump in alertness, just a spike of stress and unhappiness.  Really, that's how much I don't like debates.

Discussions, however, I consider to be a respectful exchange of opinions and ideas.  Totally different from an aggressive debate.  Discussions feel good to me, energize me, give my brain a pleasant workout, introduce new ideas and ways of looking at things, help build friendships...  Debates stress me, anger me, make me feel defensive, make me feel like my words are being judged and like my "opponent" is trying to rip everything I say to shreds, because, well, they usually are (isn't that what a debate is?).  I also find that I'm far more open to new opinions and ways of looking at things in a respectful and friendly discussion than in a competitive debate. 

I really don't mind at all if other people are happy to debate.  But if someone tries to start one with me, and they push when I say I'm not into debating, it REALLY bothers me.  And don't even get me started on people playing devils advocate when talking to me (when I argue something, I really, truly, and with all my heart believe in what I'm saying.  I'm often talking about things that are vital to how I live my life, and are very close to me heart.  If someone else is just arguing something they're not invested in at all, just for the kicks, I find it incredibly disrespectful.  Again, have the sense to argue with other people who enjoy it, not with people who really care about what they're saying.).

So, having gone off on a major tangent, I come back to the reason why I'm nervous about posting things to do with green anarchy.  Links to other things are fine: but when it's my own words, what if someone says something I disagree with SO MUCH in response that I have to tell them they're wrong, then I get sucked into a debate, and get stressed, and and and...  You get the picture.

So maybe I should just close comments on especially political posts?  But I love comments, generally, and want to hear what people have to say.  I don't want to do that...  You see the dilemma.  So that's a main reason I write less about politics...

But I want to change that.  There are thoughts and musings and views I really want to put out there.  I just have to take a deep breathe, and be brave enough to do so!



  1. I don't think it's a bad thing that you don't like debating. I think it's a sign that you value peace - your own internal peace, and peace between you and others - more than proving you're right.

    Respectful debate has its place, but so many people debate to defend their egos rather than their ideals. That's when it gets sticky.

    I personally hate discussing politics because political opinions ultimately boil down to opinions on how other people should live, or about things that will invariably affect other people. No matter how confident I am in my opinions, there are *very* few issues I see as being black-and-white enough to be worth potentially acting douchey over. Having clearly-defined beliefs is good. Sharing ideas is good. But when interacting with others, I need to remember that I don't know everything - and I can almost guarantee that "the other person's entire life story" falls under the umbrella of "things I don't know".

    Humility is underrated.

  2. So are anarchists/politicos more argumentative than unschoolers?!

  3. @Bonnie: Thanks! I'd like to think that. :-) Yes, I definitely find most debates are more about pride in "winning" an argument than anything else.

    That's a cool way of looking at things...

    @Wendy Priesnitz: Haha, no, not at all. However, the people against anarchy are often VERY argumentative, at least in my experience. :-S

  4. Please don't close your comments. I'm surprised you think it's "disrespectful" for someone to do what we might call 'playing devil's advocate'. Don't you think these can be worthwhile thought experiments in examining your own viewpoints critically? In my experience, questioning my own assumptions- whilst it can upset my balance (and most people need some stable set of values)- helps me to make sure my assumptions are correct, and if they are, to strengthen them. But it all gets a bit too platonic when you try to examine your tendencies and ideas with logic and rationale alone- the best means (in my opinion) is investigation. If I have any kind of prejudice (good or bad), I should try to delve into that thing and figure out if I'm right ot wrong.

    Anyway; never be afraid to be wrong. That's how we're quashed. Here's to hoping you'll get your political views out there...

  5. @primavera: I feel like you didn't really get a lot of what I was saying in this post!
    Worthwhile ways of examining my viewpoints are when someone says to me "I don't really feel that way/agree with that, this is what I think instead..." Not when someone thinks it's fun to argue a point of view they don't even believe in just to get a rise out of someone else/start an argument. As far as I'm concerned, that is disrespectful to me. Tell me what you actually believe in, or don't say anything to me at all.

    As I said in my post, different people learn in different ways. Obviously, for you debating is a good way of "examining your own viewpoints critically". For me, it's just an unpleasant, aggressive thing that some people seem to enjoy, for some odd reason. ;-)

    I don't have a fear of being wrong: I have a fear of being dragged into arguments that do nothing but stress me, when I could instead have wonderful discussions where both participants can share and discuss their different views in a respectful manner!

    Anyway, thanks for your comment, and I do hope to write more political posts in the future... :-)

  6. One thing I have learned in my 45 years of living is that opinions and beliefs are like assholes..everyone's got one. :-) By the way, love your blog.

    I have always been a relaxed homeschooler with my 9 yo dd, but just recently in the past few months have started "unschooling" cold turkey.

    Your posts are very inspiring. Keep up the good work.

  7. About debating... funny, just before I read this post, I was browsing the net and came across a site about compassionate parenting and nonviolent communication. I saw this great quote:

    "Most of us have been educated from birth to compete, judge, demand and diagnose — to think and communicate in terms of what is 'right' and 'wrong' with people."

    And, to me, that's the heart and soul of what I understand you to be describing by 'debate' in this post.

    I took a philosophy course a few years ago. It was about critical thinking, etc. For the first time in my life, I experienced debating as a collaborative and peaceful process.

    In general, my university profs can challenge my ideas, debate them, find the holes in my logic, play devil's advocate, etc... all without me having an experience of being 'ripped to shreds'.

    However, when I have conversations which turn into 'debates' with friends, I usually DO feel like my ideas, opinions, thoughts, etc, are being rejected based on gut reaction, not on fact or information. It IS disrespectful, and I usually just back out of the conversation.

    My profs are intentional in creating a safe space. They are respectful, even when I AM wrong. That, I think, is the difference.

  8. Oh, I forgot to write that I'd be really interested to read about green anarchy!

  9. I'm usually okay with long as it doesn't get nasty. I hate when it turns into people calling each other names.

    Debating IS stressful sometimes. I don't think there's anything wrong with closing comments, if this brings you peace. I've done that before. I figure if what you write sparks thoughts in someone, they can write about it on their own blog.

  10. Your question on (dis)allowing comments reminded me of something I read long ago. (An opinion that basically says blogs and comments don't mix well together.)

    That being said I should add that I'm slightly in favour of allowing comments, especially on blogs that deal with ideas that are not mainstream (such as yours). Since quite a few of those who comment usually leave a link (under their name) to their own blog, it helps at building a network of like-minded people. I actually think that's how I stumbled upon your blog, by following a comment you left on someone's else.

    As for avoiding (online) debates, I think you just need to get used to ignoring those comments that seem to be leading down that way.