April 05, 2004

Wages of Public Education

Pursuant and relevant to the last entry about the dearth of actual debating ability on campuses comes the comment thread from this little piece (via Wonkette).

Dear God. If I were still teaching Freshman Comp, I would print out the comments and force my class to go through them and pick out the ad hominems, circular arguments, false choices, and strawmen on display. But as I haven't the time, let me just pick out a few items which made me almost homicidally angry:

1. McCarthy! It's the new catchphrase for the rhetorically retarded! If you can't think of an actual argument, just scream McCarthy!

2. The "Yeah, well, unless you're 100% perfect you're a HYPOCRITE" tactic, which manages to avoid argumentation altogether. Because really, why discuss the issues at hand when you can turn the argument into a personal attack on your opponent? For added "oomph," toss in a cry of "McCarthy!" or for added partisan dash, try a pinch of "Bush Lied!" or "Kerry Flip-Flops!"

3. The OMNISCIENT COMMENTER. This person is somehow magically able to divine the innermost thoughts and desires of his or her opponent, and communicate disdain for the same with pithy comments like, "Yeah, right." Here's some advice: If you're omniscient, then you should already know how the argument's gonna turn out, right? SO SPARE US YOUR SANCTIMONIOUS CLAPTRAP AND LACK OF REASON! Good God!

4. The, "See? This is why we're all DOOOOOMMMEEEDDD!" Cassandra commentor. Hey sweetie? Here's a ladder. Get over yourself. I can guarantee you that you'll have an entirely new piece of Evidence of The Decline of Civilization by tomorrow morning. In the meantime, this has something to do with the debate at hand HOW?

See, I used to think that this level of stupidity was primarily the purview of Fan Forums. I enjoy going to sites like Fandom Wank to laugh at exactly these kinds of argumentative tactics popping up in debates about whether or not the Hobbits are gay.

It's not as funny when the topics are a little, shall we say, more serious. It's just pathetic. Well, pathetic and proof that the American educational system sucks righteous ass. OMG! We're DOOOOMMMMMED! McCarthy!


Posted by Big Arm Woman at April 5, 2004 12:38 PM

For a catalog of the types of nitwits you're complaining about, with illustrations, take a look at Flame Warriors.

Posted by: Joshua at April 5, 2004 02:09 PM

Hey, forget freshman composition! Take a look at your local Op-Ed page. The lack of research and logic may be glossed over by a smooth writing style, but they're still there.


Posted by: Nancy at April 6, 2004 09:44 AM

Oh why did you have to send me over there. I think I just had a little stroke.

Posted by: Tom at April 6, 2004 09:51 AM