To, or Not To, Debate: A Lesson

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Below is a recent exchange I had with an unnamed person about a statement they had made on social media regarding the President’s latest endeavor – “free college”. The debate was flawed from the start. So many poorly developed skills and highly developed fallacies were apparent that I felt compelled to save the conversation as a lesson to review.
I was able to openly, respectfully debate some people in the thread, and I even had quite a bit of support in my favor. Still, I’ve redacted all but the comments back and forth between “Instigator” and myself. And while that naming convention certainly denotes bias, you’ll see fairly quickly that it fits like a fogged over, cracked glass slipper.


On a call today, I heard someone I respect call our President “weak,” “ineffectual,” and a “closeted Muslim.” This was in response to what is currently going down in Paris. So, entirely unrelated things. Thankfully, mine is not a shy or retiring personality, so I told him I disagreed. This is one of the many things our President has done/said recently that make me proud to be an American. I hope it’s not just a pipe dream. (And by that I mean: I hope the Republican-saturated Congress doesn’t scuttle the thing, either out of “fiscal conservatism” or out of spite.)
I tried not to say anything, but it seems almost irresponsible of me not to. Here’s a different perspective:
What if they scuttle it out of common sense? After all, it isn’t actually “free” college. It is, in fact, a hijacking of middle class Americans’ freedom since they will be FORCED to pay billions of dollars annually for the program. And wouldn’t corralling youths into welfare-schools inflate demand and cause a reduction in the supply? And wouldn’t that result in skyrocketing costs? This means that tax-robbed people will end up paying even more money for a lesser education that they, themselves, aren’t even getting! Not to mention, the opportunity cost people will pay who won’t actually benefit from this “furthered” education while they could have been gaining workplace experience and increasing their wages through time in their industry. And, won’t this tremendous influx in college-goers completely devalue the college degree for all the people who actually would otherwise benefit from obtaining one? Also, being that every American is already $58,000 in debt to the government’s creditors, I’d say that stacking this unfunded liability on the shoulders of the working class is a pretty terrible idea. Further, people can’t afford to pay for other people’s educations (in the same way that they can’t afford to pay for other people’s healthcare); the average American household is over $15,000 in credit card debt alone. People already come out of government schools worshiping government, financially illiterate and with an inability to think critically. A government takeover of community college-funding is the first few inches on the slippery slope to government stipulations, regulations, and government-approved curriculum. And the last thing Americans need is for young adults to be manipulated into staying in government-institutions becoming further indoctrinated, and causing true adulthood to be pushed off until years later than it already is. I think it would have been far more impressive if Obama had decided to improve the government-controlled education system which currently exists; the one that lands American children 26th in Reading, 28th in Science, and 37th in Math compared to the rest of the world. Government really ought to focus on doing less, and performing really well at what it already insists on doing.
Pcoast, we’re not going to do this here. Sorry you couldn’t help but say something. Your blanket bias against our government is just as ignorant as any kind of blanket bias in its favor. Anything else I say in response to you at this point will make me sound arrogant. After all, my vantage point on this issue comes from a level of education you neither admire nor aspire to. So, you can vote vehemently against this prospective program at this nascent stage on principle if you want to. I will reserve my final opinion for when a true plan shakes itself out (and answers many of the valid questions asked on this thread), and will cast my vote at that time.
It sounds as though I’ve offended you, and I certainly didn’t mean to. I tried to stick to the issue, and I think I did a pretty good job. I didn’t attack you whatsoever. Your level of education is astounding! I love that you’ve spent years studying your passions. I hadn’t thought to praise you for it while discussing President Obama’s initiative, though. And I didn’t realize that your education and experience in writing made you an unquestionable expert on all things political. You are right, though; I do not aspire to your level of college-education. I am a fairly well educated person in my own right though – I swear! As for my “bias” against government, you’re only partially correct. I have what you call a “bias” toward the INITIATION of force. And, yes, that includes government. Lastly, as you well know, I don’t vote (see my article…/i-dont-vote…/ ) I don’t think you have to worry about coming across as arrogant, as you’ve already set sail. LOL
Acquaintance, I’d say that my brother is trolling you, but he actually believes this stuff. And true believers will not be dissuaded from their limited world views regardless of how reasonable or right you are. Save your energy and your time, my friend. And don’t worry, because he doesn’t vote! 🙂 And Pcoast, don’t worry about insulting me. We may be on opposite sides of this issue (of most issues!), but I respect your willingness to articulate your viewpoint. Allow me to boil it down a bit: I think taxes are necessary and civilized and ought to be used to benefit the people who pay them; you don’t accept my premise, and therefore, we’re not actually arguing.
Trolling? How passive aggressive of you.
“Actually believes this stuff”? So you’re saying that I’m unique in my thoughts? That this isn’t real?
“True believers”? As if it’s organized? Like a cult or something?
“Limited worldview”? As though we don’t live in the age of information, and I haven’t traveled enough to hold credibility?
“He doesn’t vote” As if I don’t try to affect positive change in my own way?
“Don’t worry about insulting me”? As if I did? I never did insult you. I made no personal attacks.
“I respect your willingness to articulate your viewpoint”? So you don’t respect the honesty, integrity, well-articulated arguments to the point? You just respect my “willingness”? As though I’m amusing you with my haphazardly placed words?
“You don’t agree with my premise…we’re not arguing”?
You seem to be unable to keep from filling your paragraphs with atrocious amounts of ad hominem, and dozens of other obvious fallacies, assumptions and allusions. You’re correct when you say “we’re not arguing”. I am making arguments. You are making noise
It’s unfortunate. Someone with your academic clout should have the ability to discern arguments from name calling and distraction within their own written word; then again, now I’m making an assumption.
BTW, this is all in good humor. I know you “actually believe” your viewpoint too.
Pcoast, let it go, man. I’ve tried to keep it light, but your own passive aggression is drowning any possible good point you’re attempting to make. Acquaintance2 did make some good points, and I’d love to engage her… but she’s being measured and respectful. You’re being a pain in the ass. Read the room. And then re-read your comments, because they’re full of intended insults and sarcasm and every other unworthwhile waste of hot air. We, you and I, are not arguing. You’re slinging crap and I’m hoping you’ll relax and allow others a chance to share their opinions. Or not. Because this is Facebook, and minds aren’t changed here.
Instigator, I really don’t understand where you felt attacked. I reread my comments, and I felt they were clear and well-stated. I saw no personal attacks (outside of agreeing with you that you sounded arrogant). I’ve noticed over the years that you tend to only allow people to question you if they aren’t related to you, and even then, only if they don’t disagree. Calling my views, “Crap,” and suggesting that my articulation is carelessly slung about are very obvious misconceptions (at best). Implying that my comments aren’t measured or respectful is also a mischaracterization. I suggest you reread YOUR and my comments and see exactly where you misstepped. And, please don’t let me stand in the way of your response to Acquaintance2. Indeed, she made excellent points.
And, in case I didn’t make it clear, your credentials are worth nothing to the vast majority of people. You began attacking me when you touted your credentials saying that “After all, my vantage point on this issue comes from a level of education you neither admire nor aspire to,” implying that those without your particular educational path are mere simpletons. Actually, when it comes to people in general, if dey ain’t employing’ ya, dey don wanna hur boutchya digreeez, ya heard!? LOL.
You mischaracterized my comments from the get-go. So, YOU, please, “relax” and allow other opinions to be stated. And, YOU, stop “being a pain in the ass” and “slinging crap”.
And, btw, I’m still smiling on my end.
Moral to the story…. Don’t post things and not expect people to express their differing opinions. With that said this was extremely entertaining.
So glad to see that, as I slept, Pcoast, Acquaintance, and Acquaintance2 had such a fruitful conversation. Brother, I’d say the moral of this story is that no matter what I post, if Pcoast has his panties in a bunch about some tangential issue, he’s going to hijack the thread and be himself. And I shouldn’t waste my time trying to stop him. I welcome debate when I assert my opinion… But here, I wasn’t arguing anything.

Well, reading back, I can see how my attempts not to engage my brother(s) on this thread could sound dismissive and arrogant. That wasn’t my intent. If I post something on Facebook, whether I like it or not, that’s construed as a public endorsement of something. Probably more/different than I what I actually intended to support. I do expect and appreciate debate, and once something is public, it’s not up to me to decide who gets to comment or how many times or where he will take his argument. While I maintain my right not to engage, it is wrong to state that while also jabbing and insulting others in the process. Pcoast, I apologize for being passive aggressive and openly dismissive of your point of view.
You don’t seriously expect me to accept that backhanded grenade of a faux-apology, do you?
“Whether you like it or not” is irrelevant; your initial post reads, “This is one of the many things our President has done/said recently that make me proud to be an American. I hope it’s not just a pipe dream.” While I guess you COULD have meant that you’re proud he can speak at all…and that you hope it’s a pipe-nightmare… those possibilities were dashed when you went on to say, “I hope the Republican-saturated Congress doesn’t scuttle the thing, either out of “fiscal conservatism” or out of spite.”
To say that I am “considering” your post an endorsement, because you said it publicly on FB is, yet again, a mischaracterization of reality on your part. YOU ENDORSED IT, loud and clear (see quotes above).
Also, when you say, “…once something is public, it’s not up to me to decide who gets to comment or how many times or where he will take his argument,” you are implying that I went somewhere inappropriate with the debate, spoke too much, pushed an unheard of agenda, and even that this was “his” argument. In fact, my views are, more or less, shared by many, and YOU made a controversial post – not me; this is your argument as much as it is mine. You’re attempting to paint yourself in a victim’s light here as though I’ve bullied you. In truth, I’ve done no such thing, you are not a victim of anything, and I find your effort at painting ME as a bully, well, bully-like. And, I respond to criticisms of myself and my views regularly and respectfully in debates; it doesn’t bother me that people (in this case you) are unable to create a valid argument resorting to name-calling and false implications – that means you’ve given up. I do point it out, though, because I don’t like making people read between the lines.
Lastly, your most recent comment, apologetic as it may seem, begins, “I can see how my attempts not to engage my brother(s) on this thread could sound dismissive and arrogant. That wasn’t my intent.” If you think me a fool once, shame on me for my presentation; however, the second time… BOOOOO to you!!
You didn’t MEAN to come across as dismissive and arrogant? Really? In your first response to my views you accused me of having “blanket bias”, you called me “ignorant”, you admitted that you were already bordering arrogance, you held your college-education over my head as an attack on my credibility (as if your studies in writing have something MORE to do with an understanding of political sciences, economics, philosophy, etc. than my own education), you accused me of having no appreciation for your credentials (which, to be fair, I appreciated more before this stream’s genesis), and you pulled back your initial endorsement stating that, “I will reserve my final opinion for…” in an obvious back-pedaling stab at sounding more neutral to the matter than you did in your initial post.
You mischaracterized my views, abused your formal educational authority, and implied absolute falsehoods, both about me (personally) and about the information and views I was putting forth, throughout the entire exchange. You even ended with a revolting attack on my morality, organization, comprehension, etc., and you had the nerve to disguise that attack as an apology. I’m not easily hurt, so no damage was done to my feelings. No apology is necessary.
I’d rather you truly read back over this conversation and learn about yourself, and become a better version of you. Your passion and your writing abilities could be a tremendous force if honed properly, whether for good or bad is, I suppose, up for debate?
This will be my last post in this thread. I enjoy a good debate. This thread did provide some good ideas. It’s wonderful to know that folks are staying atop the issues at hand, and thinking.

P.S. This has been an excellent opportunity for people involved to see how many different ways a person can juke, dodge, distract, and tap-dance around issues when they’re losing a debate. My initial comment was concise and raised entirely valid points without any hint of attack. However, Instigator ‘s initial post was firm in her approval of Obama’s proposal, so she felt attacked by my points. This is understandable. But, rather than research, or otherwise find answers to the points I raised, she switched immediately to personal attack. And, she kept on swinging throughout the conversation. This thread is truly a magnificent read when going through it in its entirety for the purpose of learning the what-to-do’s and what-NOT-to-do’s when discussing important, controversial topics. This conversation has been at least vaguely funny, also, because the topic of “further subsidized tuition” isn’t a particularly inflammatory one.


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