The cynic’s guide to argument

December 29, 2010

This guide, from a longtime commenter on Megan McArdle’s blog, does an excellent, if cynical, job of explaining how to win an online argument. It includes:

  • Using allusions to make you look smarter (Wikipedia is a great resource for finding quick facts).
  • Treating stupid questions as if they are serious (this one could actually help the conversation).
  • Treating serious questions as though they’re stupid (great way to score points, but do not contribute to a good discussion).
  • Admitting any and all faults you are accused of (this diffuses the bottom two argument styles in Graham’s hierarchy: name-calling and ad-hominem attacks.)
  • Asking earnest questions instead of making arguments (which can be very useful in pointing out the complexities of a situation.)
  • Never pulling rank. Let your credibility (ethos) be based on what your argue, not on how much education/training/experience you have (credibility is important, and so is experience, but pulling rank tends to annoy people and that will loose you friends.)
  • Being brief (snappy one-liners may not have the depth of a well reasoned argument but are more likely to win friends).

Most of these techniques are appeals to the emotions (pathos). They can, and may sometimes need to, be used to support a good, well reasoned, argument (logos).

[B]efore some audiences not even the possession of the exactest knowledge will make it easy for what we say to produce conviction. – Aristotle in On Rhetoric

Be careful how you use these things, and watch out for them, because they don’t only occur online, you’ll see them often in any conversation.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2010. The cynic's guide to argument, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Critical Reading

December 24, 2010

With the exception of informed ones, opinions have little use as supporting evidence. – Critically Evaluating the Logic and Validity of Information from Cuesta College.

Cuesta College has a nice but fairly dense webpage on, “Critically Evaluating the Logic and Validity of Information“.

It starts with distinguishing between facts and opinions, goes into evaluating arguments and rounds up with asking critical questions. There’s lots of good information, but it needs to be parsed, broken apart, and condensed for middle school students.

Facts are statements that can be verified or proven to be true or false. Factual statements from reliable sources can be accepted and used in drawing conclusions, building arguments, and supporting ideas.

Opinions are statements that express feelings, attitudes, or beliefs and are neither true nor false. Opinions must be considered as one person’s point of view that you are free to accept or reject. With the exception of informed ones, opinions have little use as supporting evidence, but they are useful in shaping and evaluating your own thinking. [My emphasis]
Critically Evaluating the Logic and Validity of Information from Cuesta College.

This can be tied in with my previous notes on Paul Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement to create a set of lessons on critical thinking and evaluation.

Paul Graham's Hierachy of Disagreement (image adapted from Wikipedia).

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2010. Critical Reading, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

How to disagree

December 10, 2010

Paul Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement (image adapted from Wikipedia).

Faced with the rapidity at which anonymous conversations on the internet deteriorate, Paul Graham’s broken things down into six levels of argument. It starts with name-calling at the bottom and ends with the Refutation of the Central Point at the top.

This is a wonderful model. I especially like the diagram because it’s really easy to pick out which level your argument is on. I’m going to make a poster sized version of this and post it on the wall. And, there’ll be a lesson.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2010. How to disagree, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Save the Galvao!

July 9, 2010

Following the theme of philanthropy, if you use Twitter you can help save the Galvao birds of Brazil. More information about this fascinating project can be found at On The Media.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2010. Save the Galvao!, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Rising bread

March 5, 2010

Yesterday, one of our experimental loaves of bread failed to rise, so re-tried it today and had a discussion about all the things we can do encourage it to rise. Since yeast is an organism, and we talked about the role of yeast in baking bread yesterday, this was a chance for the students to take what they’d learned and extrapolate into a new situation.

These types of situations pop up all the time in the student run business, especially when we try something new. It gets to the critical thinking skills adolescents need to practice. It is the reason Maria Montessori advocated for a boarding house middle school that ran a business. It is one of the reasons I insist that we start at least one new business every year in addition to our core pizza business.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2010. Rising bread, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

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